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Luce Foundation Center for American Art

Sculpture: 19th century: Greek Slave
Greek Slave


Greek Slave
modeled 1841-43
Hiram Powers
plaster
26 1/4 x 18 x 10 3/4 in. (66.8 x 45.6 x 27.3 cm)
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum purchase in memory of Ralph Cross Johnson
1968.155.45
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Learn more about the Greek Slave 4MB

“She is too deeply concerned to be aware of her nakedness. It is not her person but her spirit that stands exposed.” Hiram Powers


Hiram Powers’s Greek Slave was by far the most popular full-length statue the artist created. Between 1847 and 1849, more than a hundred thousand people saw the sculpture on its tour across America. The figure depicts a Greek woman who has been captured and chained by a Turkish warrior. The statue referred directly to the Greek struggle for independence during the 1820s, but also evoked the issue of slavery in America. Greek Slave was the first nude statue to be widely accepted by the American public. By emphasizing that the slave was stripped by her captors and not naked by choice, Powers gave the public permission to view the statue without fear of embarrassment. Greek Slave became so famous that Powers received numerous requests for replicas, including six full-size marble versions and more than a hundred busts of various sizes.


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