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Powers gave this bust the title Proserpine, after the beautiful but tragic figure in Roman mythology (she was known as Persephone in Greek literature). Proserpine, the daughter of Jupiter and Ceres, was kidnapped by Pluto, who took her to Hades to be his wife. Jupiter eventually won her release, but because she had eaten some fruit while in the underworld, she was forced to return there each year. Her annual sojourn in Pluto's dominion brought about the withering forces of winter, while her return to earth brought the renewal of spring. Powers completed the sculpture at his studio in Florence, where he had been living since 1837.
The original bust of Proserpine rose out of a basket of flowers. Powers, ever the businessman, realized that this feature was so intricate that it would greatly delay his assistants as they created replicas of the piece. His revised design (seen in this example) was simpler but very effective, utilizing a base of acanthus leaves, symbols of immortality. He further simplified the work with a third design that had a simple beaded base. The graceful elegance of the bust proved to be very popular with collectors, resulting in the production of over 150 replicas.

Details

  • Title: Proserpine
  • Creator: Hiram Powers
  • Date: ca. 1844
  • Physical Dimensions: w19 x h25 x d19.75 in.
  • Credit Line: Gift of Mr. and Mrs. John C. C. Mayo, II
  • Type: sculpture
  • Medium: marble

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