Measured Perfection: Hiram Powers' Greek Slave

July 3, 2015 – July 9, 2017

Hiram Powers, Greek Slave, 1841-1843, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum purchase in memory of Ralph Cross Johnson

Smithsonian American Art Museum
8th and F Streets, NW
Washington, DC

2nd Floor, South Floor Plan

This one-gallery exhibition reveals the inner workings of the studio of Hiram Powers (1805-1873), who was among the most innovative sculptors of the nineteenth century, eagerly adapting long-standing sculpture traditions to new technologies of his age. The display draws from an extensive collection acquired by the Smithsonian American Art Museum directly from Powers’ studio in Florence, Italy, in 1968. Finished and unfinished artworks and a selection of tools reveal Powers’ creative process and ingenious experiments, including the highly controversial practice of body casting. A key object in the exhibition is the life-size plaster of Powers’ Greek Slave, the most highly acclaimed sculpture of the nineteenth century, so famous that Powers applied for a U.S. patent on the composition.

Interactive didactic displays and activities—including a special activity for children—invite viewers to appreciate Powers’ innovative contributions to nineteenth-century sculpture, while videos of 3-D scanning and a pointing machine in use demonstrate how sculpture tools and techniques have changed since Powers’ time.