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Bust of Proserpine

On view

Bust of Proserpine

Artist: Hiram Powers (American, 1805 - 1873)

Date: after 1845
Medium: Marble
Dimensions:
Overall: 22 x 16 x 9in. (55.9 x 40.6 x 22.9cm)
Signed: Back of base: 'H. POWERS. Sculp.'
Credit Line: Museum Purchase
Object number: 60.69
Label Text
This bust and its nearby pendant, the Greek Slave, is one of only six documented sets of these two sculptures that were commissioned or purchased directly from Powers' studio. Both works represent women who were subjected to cruel fate.

In this work Powers depicted the Roman goddess Proserpine (the equivalent of the Greek goddess Persephone), wearing a wreath of wheat on her head, a detail that identifies her as the goddess of springtime. After her husband, Pluto, carried her away to the realm of the dead, Proserpine's mother, Ceres, negotiated with him for her return to earth for half of each year. Like a wheat seed, Proserpine remains hidden underground, returning to life each spring but disappearing again in winter.

This bust was Powers' most popular image. His studio produced approximately one hundred and forty-six copies in three different sizes.

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