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modeled 1848 Hiram Powers Born: Woodstock, Vermont 1805 Died: Florence, Italy 1873 plaster 25 1/8 x 17 1/8 x 9 3/4 in. (63.8 x 43.6 x 24.7 cm) Smithsonian American Art Museum Museum purchase in memory of Ralph Cross Johnson 1968.155.86 Not currently on view

Luce Center Quote

"A light . . . seems to shine from the interior of the marble, and beam forth from the features." Nathaniel Hawthorne on Psyche after visiting Powers's studio in 1858, quoted in The Complete Works of Nathaniel Hawthorne, vol. 10, Passages from the French and Italian Note-Books (Boston, 1909)

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According to Greek mythology, Psyche was a beautiful maiden who fell in love with Cupid. Cupid's mother, Aphrodite, was jealous of Psyche's beauty and tried to keep the lovers apart. Eventually, however, Aphrodite realized that Cupid and Psyche were destined to be together and so she made Psyche immortal. Psyche is also the Greek word for "soul" and "butterfly." In his sculpture, Hiram Powers portrays Psyche as a young woman with delicate facial features and a butterfly in her curling hair, a symbol of her transformation into womanhood. The sculpture was commissioned in 1848 by wealthy Boston merchant Ignatius Sargent, who had purchased several sculptures from Powers. Over the next fifteen years, Powers made nine marble and three plaster copies of this ideal figure.


Mythology - classical - Psyche

Study - sculpture model



About Hiram Powers

Born: Woodstock, Vermont 1805 Died: Florence, Italy 1873

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