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Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas. Photo courtesy James Graham & Sons Gallery.


Artist: Hiram Powers (1805 - 1873)
Date: modeled 1844, carved ca. 1845-1873
21 x 16 x 9 1/2 in. (53.3 x 40.6 x 24.1 cm)
Medium: Marble
Credit Line: Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas, 2005.5
Signed: rear center vertical edge: H. POWERS. / SCULP
On View
Accession Number: 2005.5
ProvenancePrivate Collection (possibly S. Schuster), Manchester, England; Robert Walker, Manchester, England, ca. 1945-1949; by descent to C.M. Walker (his daughter), Cheshire, England; to (James Graham & Sons, New York, NY), 2005; purchased by Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, AR, 2005
Label TextInfluenced by his study of classical sculpture, Powers portrayed the goddess Proserpine as a beautiful young woman with idealized Grecian features. Her serene demeanor suggests stoic acceptance of her fate. This differs from the sexual violence, wrath, and despair emphasized in accounts of the myth by the Roman poet Ovid and the English writer Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, and in the famous Baroque sculpture by Gianlorenzo Bernini. Powers made approximately fifty copies of the bust, suggesting the popularity of his sanitized version.

In Roman mythology, Pluto, ruler of hell, abducted Proserpine and made her his queen, but allowed her to return to earth six months each year. Her mother, Ceres, goddess of agriculture, decreed that crops would be fertile during that time and fallow during Proserpine's confinement to the underworld. The acanthus leaves encircling Proserpine in Powers's bust reference her relationship to the advent of spring.