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Bust of Proserpine

Hiram Powers, American, 1805 - 1873, after 1837 active Florence, Italy

Made in Florence, Italy, Europe



Height: 24 1/2 inches (62.2 cm)

Curatorial Department:
American Art

* Gallery 384, European Art 1500-1850, third floor

Accession Number:

Credit Line:
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. F. Woodson Hancock in memory of Edward Carey Gardner, 1978

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Hiram Powers was among the first Americans to join the international community of artists who lived and worked in Italy in the early nineteenth century. He became famous for his idealized female figures carved in marble in the neoclassical style. Proserpine is the Italian name for Persephone, a figure in Greek mythology who married Pluto, king of the underworld (Hades), and lived with him there for part of each year. Her descent to Hades caused winter, and her return to earth signaled spring--the flowers around the base symbolize this season of renewed fertility. The garland of wheat refers to Persephone's mother, Demeter, goddess of agriculture.

This bust-length sculpture of Persephone was one of Powers's most popular works; 185 replicas are known. This is the first, and the elaborate basket that supports the figure is unique.

* Works in the collection are moved off view for many different reasons. Although gallery locations on the website are updated regularly, there is no guarantee that this object will be on display on the day of your visit.