The Greek Slave

You know how it is: you wait ages for an interesting statue, and then two come along at once…

I’ve recent been reading Jeremy Paxman’s fascinating volume on “The Victorians”. Having long been fascinated by the Great Exhibition of 1851, I was curious to find this little paragraph, describing an item that hadn’t featured in the previous books I’ve devoured on the subject, namely:

a presentation of the American sculpture Hiram Powers’ Greek Slave* (1844), [which] caused a sensation. The sculpture… depicts a Greek maiden who has been captured by the Turks and forced to stand naked in a slave market. The statue was secreted in a curtained alcove but placed on a stand that could be rotated discreetly by gentlemen in order to reveal her delightful posterior.

The web is a wonderful thing, for as well as Wikipedia’s tantalising description (“the title suggests that she is some sort of captive, and is on display for sale as a sexual object in an unknown market”), there’s an illustration of the sculpture in the Crystal Palace itself:

Greek Slave by Hiram Powell - from Abel and Haron's Spanking Blog

This surely demands a closer look, so let’s peek behind the curtain of Victorian discretion:

Greek Slave by Hiram Powell, close up - from Abel and Haron's Spanking Blog

And now let us reach for that legendary rotating stand:

Greek Slave by Hiram Powell, back view - from Abel and Haron's Spanking Blog

Oh yes. Oh very yes. As one academic essay comments, “The treatment of the back especially, is one of the happiest efforts in modern sculpture.”

Apparently the original work lives in Raby Castle – not very far from where Haron and I lived for seven years – although there are copies dotted all across the States. I think we need to take a trip back up north, and contemplate how the young lady might have been punished by her new master… or in the harem, even.

One further online reference to the sculpture lists it with a number of other artworks classified as “Women as helpless, chained (and usually naked) victims”. This is a genre that, I feel, deserves further investigation…

*I typed that as ‘Geek Slave’ the first time around. That sounds intriguing, too!

7 thoughts on “The Greek Slave

  • 5 May, 2010 at 3:58 am

    Wow, the detail on that sculpture is excellent. It looks so real. That artist must have had a liking for the female bottom to have payed so much attention to the details of her naked backside. :)

  • 5 May, 2010 at 2:28 pm

    Now that I place a higher value on the beauty of my own derriere, I can appreciate the finer points of another far more easily :)

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  • 9 May, 2010 at 8:38 pm

    there is a sculpture at the yale art gallery in new haven, ct. that is either this or a very similer work. i don’t remember any detailed description tho. also mis july of 344 c.e. on the underside of a roman trunk.

    perhaps someone from nycss coule make the trip and give us a report.


  • 10 May, 2010 at 10:32 am

    @ddon – there are various copies around the world, so the Yale one might well be one of those. A couple of dear friends went and checked out the original for us in Raby Castle, and sent us a postcard.

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