Hiram Powers ( American, 1805 - 1873 )
- c. 1866–1867
As early as 1852, Rhode Island businessman Marshall Woods requested from Hiram Powers a pair of busts modeled on the classical ideal. For unknown reasons, Powers did not fulfill Woods original request. The client persisted and fourteen years later Powers finally agreed to the commission as long as it was for three statues. The subjects chosen were modeled on the Christian theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity, which derive from the New Testament verse of 1 Corinthians 13:13: “And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.” Acting on the significance given to charity in the biblical framework, Power’s conception of the group had _Faith _and _Hope _as the flanking works and _Charity _elevated at the center of the triad. Each bust was distinguished from the other through both posture and the use of traditional symbols for their character. The original bust of _Faith _was the second of the trio to be completed in the summer of 1866. Here, she wears a tiara bearing the Greek cross, and her skyward gaze implies that her confidence is derived from heaven above.
Recognized today as the most important American sculptor of neoclassical subjects of his time, Powers was also the first sculptor from the United States to achieve international fame, based in great part on the success of his statue the The Greek Slave.
Sue Canterbury, DMA label text, 2012
Greek Slave: The Washington, D.C. Legacy of Hiram Powers' 1840s Masterpiece
Read Evan J. Berkowitz's Smithsonian Insider blog post about the placement and recent 3-D printed replica of this sculpture.