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Hiram Powers (American, 1805–1873)
Proserpine, designed 1844; made 1844–1878
White Carrara marble
25 × 19 1/4 × 10 in. (63.5 × 48.9 × 25.4 cm)
Layton Art Collection Inc. L1897.1
Photo credit: Larry Sanders
Currently on View

Hiram Powers’s limited training included sculpting portraits of friends. Fellow Cincinnatian and millionaire Nicholas Longworth noticed his work and became his patron, introducing him to presidents Andrew Jackson and Martin van Buren and financing travels to New York, Washington, DC, Paris, and eventually Florence, where Powers settled in 1837. Proserpine, based on an ancient Roman bust of Clytie, was reproduced over one hundred times by Powers’s studio. This second of three versions of the subject presents the mythical daughter of Ceres, goddess of agriculture, rising out of an acanthus, a symbol of immortality. Allowed by her kidnapper and husband Pluto, ruler of the underworld, to return to the surface only during the spring and summer, the innocent Proserpine brings bloom and joy to the earth.

Publication History
Eastberg, John C. and Eric Vogel. Layton’s Legacy: A Historic American Art Collection 1888–2013. Milwaukee, Wisconsin: Layton Art Collection, Inc., 2013, pp. 130, 132, 385, and 458, color illus. p. 132, color illus. of installation p.385.

Rudolph, William Keyse. From the Collection--Hiram Powers' Proserpine. Milwaukee Art Museum: Under the Wings, January 25, 2012.

Andera, Margaret, Nonie Gadsden, Britt Salvesen, and Laurie Winters. Collection Guide: Milwaukee Art Museum. Milwaukee, Wisconsin: Milwaukee Art Museum, 2004, pp. 31, 69, cat. 46, color illus. p. 31.

Milwaukee Art Museum. Building a Masterpiece: Milwaukee Art Museum. New York: Hudson Hill Press, 2001, p. 105, color illus.

Milwaukee Art Museum. 1888: Frederick Layton and His World. Milwaukee, Wisconsin: Milwaukee Art Museum, 1988, pp. 142-43, cat. 54, b/w illus. p. 143.

Goldstein, Rosalie, ed. Guide to the Permanent Collection. Milwaukee, Wisconsin: Milwaukee Art Museum, 1986, p. 103, b/w illus. p. 103.

Layton Art Gallery. Catalogue of the Layton Art Gallery. Milwaukee, Wisconsin: Layton Art Gallery, 1921, pp. 11 and 15, cat. 9.

Hartmann, Sadakichi. Our American Art Museums: The Layton Art Gallery of Milwaukee. Arts & Decoration 5, no. 12 (October 1915): 466.

Eldridge, E. C. Visit to Layton’s Art Gallery Wednesday Afternoon: Lecture on Art Works in the Gallery. St. Louis and Canadian Photographer 24, no. 8 (August 1900): 366.

Works of Art: How to See and Enjoy Them. Wilson's Photographic Magazine 37, no. 524 (August 1900): 371.

Pattison, James William. The Layton Art Gallery of Milwaukee. Brush and Pencil 3, no. 4 (January 1899): 216.
Exhibition History
1888: Frederick Layton and His World, Milwaukee Art Museum, April 8–August 28, 1988.

This information is subject to change as the result of ongoing research.