Catalog of the Fine Arts Collection

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Greek Slave

Possibly Niccolo Bazzanti (1802-around 1849), Italian
After Hiram Powers (1805-1873), American
Bust of the "Greek Slave" (Slave Girl), undated copy
MARBLE, 13 ½ inches high
Gift of Henry Fairbanks

This marble is one of the hundreds, if not thou­sands, of nineteenth-century reproductions of Hiram Powers' famed Greek Slave, a full-length standing nude first created in 1843. Its subject is a young Christian woman captured and enslaved by the Turks during the Greek War of Independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1821-32. The original sculpture achieved cult status in America during the mid-nineteenth century as an idealized rendering of faith. Powers himself wrote of the subject: "Gather all the afflictions [that the enslaved woman con­fronted] together and add to them the fortitude and resignation of a Christian, and no room will be left for shame," Despite the artist's effort to dress his sculpture with propriety, his Greek Slave met with intense controversy during its national tour. Al­though Americans were profoundly ambivalent about depictions of the nude, Powers' work is nevertheless recognized as one of the first to have been widely accepted and admired.

Although one art historian, Richard Wunder, has labeled this version of the sculpture a forgery, that conclusion seems inappropriate given that the work is signed by the copyist and makes no pretense of being an original composition by Powers.


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