Born 1805, Woodstock, Vermont
Died 1873, Florence, Italy
The Greek Slave, 1847
Gift of Franklin Murphy, Jr., 1926
A Greek Christian woman has been captured by Muslim Turks during the Greek War of Independence (1821-1830). The chain signals the Greek Slave's captivity and her impending sale at the Constantinople slave market. The cross indicates her faith and the solace her religion provides, while the locket at the base refers to the loved ones from whom she has been separated.
Is there a connection between American slavery and this statue?
Yes. By the early 1850s, abolitionists saw this statue as a reference to Southern slavery. Powers himself was an outspoken abolitionist, and in the sixth and final version of this statue, made in 1869, he put the Greek Slave in contemporary American manacles.
This was the most famous sculpture in 19th-century America. Why?
The sculpture drew large audiences because of its nudity. Her nudity was controversial with Americans, but was accepted because it was seen as a reflection of her Christian faith and purity. The Greek Slave traveled to ten eastern and mid-western cities from 1847 to 1849, making it the most widely seen sculpture of its time.