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Luce Foundation Center for American Art

Sculpture: 19th century: America

modeled 1848-50
Hiram Powers
23 1/4 x 20 1/2 x 13 5/8 in. (59.2 x 52.2 x 34.7 cm)
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum purchase in memory of Ralph Cross Johnson

"I am progressing rapidly with my new statue, which I intend to call America . . . I aim at an embodiment of our political creed, and I shall execute it . . . as soon as possible." Hiram Powers, 1848, in Richard P. Wunder, Hiram Powers, 1989-91

This bust was taken from the full-size statue America. Toward the end of the 1840s, Hiram Powers decided to create a sculpture that would stand in the U.S. Capitol. He did not receive a commission for this, but hoped that when members of Congress saw his design they would request a marble replica. He never found a buyer for the statue, however, and the only marble version he produced was destroyed in a fire in 1865. Powers was frustrated and disappointed at his government's lack of interest, but America eventually brought the artist a number of requests for replicas. The figure represents America's freedom from tyranny. Her crown is adorned with thirteen stars to represent the original states of the Union.

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