Career As A Sculptor
In Washington Powers's gifts soon awoke attention. But in 1837 he moved to Italy and settled on the Via Fornace in Florence, where he had access to good supplies of marble and to traditions of stone-cutting and bronze casting. He remained in Florence till his death, though he did travel to Britain during this time. He developed a thriving business in portraiture and "fancy" parlor busts, but he also devoted his time to creating life-size, full-figure ideal subjects, many of which were also isolated as a bust. In 1839 his statue of Eve won the admiration of the leading European neoclassical sculptor, Bertel Thorvaldsen. In 1843 Powers produced his most celebrated statue, The Greek Slave, which at once gave him a place among the leading sculptors of his time. It attracted more than 100, 000 viewers when it toured America in 1847; and in 1851 was exhibited in Britain at the centre of the Crystal Palace Exhibition, when Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote a sonnet on it. This sculpture was used in the abolitionist cause and copies of it appeared in many Union-supporting state houses. Among the best known of his other idealising statues are The Fisher Boy, Il Penseroso, "Eve Disconsolate", California, America and The Last of the Tribe (also called The Last of Her Tribe).
Powers became a teacher at the Florence Accademia. One of his sons was the sculptor Preston Powers.
Hiram Powers died on June 27, 1873, and is buried, as were three of his children, at the Cimitero Protestante di Porta a' Pinti, Florence (English Cemetery, Florence).
Direct descendants of Hiram Powers in Europe included the noted Futurist designer 'Thayaht' pseudonym of Ernesto Michahelles and his brother, the noted neo-metaphysical artist RAM pseudonym of Ruggero Alfredo Michahelles who was awarded in Paris in 1937 with the "Prix Paul Guillaume".
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