• Hiram Powers, Psyche, modeled 1848, plaster, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum purchase in memory of Ralph Cross Johnson, 1968.155.86

Luce Center Label

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.

Luce Object 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)
modeled 1848
On View
Not on view.
25 1/8 x 17 1/8 x 9 3/4 in. (63.8 x 43.6 x 24.7 cm)
Credit Line

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Museum purchase in memory of Ralph Cross Johnson

Mediums Description
  • Study – sculpture model
  • Mythology – classical – Psyche
Object Number
Linked Open Data
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