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Death Mask of Hiram Powers

Death Mask of Hiram Powers
Thomas Ball, born Charlestown, MA 1819-died Montclair, NJ 1911
Joel Tanner Hart, born Winchester, KY 1810-died Florence, Italy 1877
Hiram Powers
Hiram Powers
9 3/8 x 6 1/2 x 9 3/8 in. (23.8 x 16.6 x 23.8 cm.)
Credit Line
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum purchase in memory of Ralph Cross Johnson
Restrictions & Rights
Object number
Luce Center Label
Hiram Powers was a gifted American sculptor who spent much of his life in Italy. His most famous work, Greek Slave, was the first fully nude life-size female sculpture put on public exhibition in the United States. Thomas Ball came to know Powers in Florence and the two developed a close friendship; the artist even had his villa built next to Powers’s home. Ball was deeply affected by the loss of his friend, whose death was due in part to silicosis, a lung condition he acquired from years of inhaling marble particles. He and Joel Tanner Hart, another American sculptor living in Italy, commemorated Powers’s life in poetry and by molding a death mask directly from his face. This tradition had become very popular by the nineteenth century. The artist carefully preserved his friend’s naturally calm expression, suggesting that he met death peacefully.
Luce Object Quote
“But now those eyes so wonderful are closed,Those cunning fingers all to sleep composed;And I am here to guard his sacred dust,While he, made perfect, walketh with the just.” Thomas Ball, “To Hiram Powers”
Data Source
Smithsonian American Art Museum
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Smithsonian American Art Museum Collection
Painting and Sculpture
On View
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Luce Foundation Center, 3rd Floor, 17A
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Luce Foundation Center
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Luce Foundation Center, 3rd Floor