Photo © President and Fellows of Harvard College
Gallery Text

In this allegorical portrait, America is personified as a white marble goddess. Dressed in classical attire and crowned with thirteen stars representing the original thirteen colonies, the figure gives form to associations Americans drew between their democracy and the ancient Greek and Roman republics.

Like most nineteenth-century American marble sculptures, America is the product of many hands. Powers, who worked in Florence, modeled the bust in plaster and then commissioned a team of Italian carvers to transform his model into a full-scale work. Nathaniel Hawthorne, who visited Powers’s studio in 1858, captured this division of labor with some irony in his novel The Marble Faun: “The sculptor has but to present these men with a plaster cast . . . and, in due time, without the necessity of his touching the work, he will see before him the statue that is to make him renowned.”

Identification and Creation
Object Number
Hiram Powers, American (Woodstock, NY 1805 - 1873 Florence, Italy)
Other Titles
Former Title: Liberty
Work Type
Creation Place: North America, United States
Persistent Link
Level 2, Room 2100, European and American Art, 17th–19th century, Centuries of Tradition, Changing Times: Art for an Uncertain Age
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Physical Descriptions
71.1 x 49.5 x 35.6 cm (28 x 19 1/2 x 14 in.)
Inscriptions and Marks
  • Signed: on back: H. Powers Sculp.
Sold to father of Mrs. T. O. Richardson, 1865; Mrs. T. O. Richardson; her gift to Harvard College, 1924; transferred to Fogg Art Museum, 1958.
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Transfer from Harvard College, Gift of Mrs. T. O. Richardson
Accession Year
Object Number
European and American Art
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Replica of the original of 1850-54.
Publication History

Henry T. Tuckerman, Book of the Artists: American Artist Life, Comprising Biographical and Critical Sketches of American Artists, Preceded by an Historical Account of the Rise and Progress of Art in America, Putnam (New York, NY, 1867), p. 290

Nathaniel Hawthorne, French and Italian Notebooks (Boston, MA, 1873), p. 431

Oliver W. Larkin, Art and Life in America, Rinehart (New York, NY, 1960), p. 180

James Jackson Jarves, The Art-Idea, ed. Dr. Benjamin Rowland, Jr., Belknap Press (Cambridge, MA, 1960), p. 215

Neil Harris, The Artist in American Society: The Formative Years, 1790-1860, Braziller (New York, NY, 1966), p. 408, n. 78; reproduced fig. 13

Wayne Craven, Sculpture in America, Thomas Y. Crowell Company (New York, NY, 1968), p. 132

H. Wade White, "Nineteenth Century American Sculpture at Harvard, a Glance at the Collection", Harvard Library Bulletin (Cambridge, MA, October 1970), vol. XVIII, no. 4, p. 362, pl. VI

Cornelius C. Vermeule III, "America's Neoclassic Sculptors: Fallen Angels Resurrected", The Magazine Antiques (November 1972), p. 874-875, fig. 14

Kenyon Castle Bolton, III, Peter G. Huenink, Earl A. Powell III, Harry Z. Rand, and Nanette C. Sexton, American Art at Harvard, exh. cat., Fogg Art Museum (Cambridge, MA, 1972), cat. 58, ill.

Richard P. Wunder, Hiram Powers: Vermont Sculptor, 1805-1873, Vol. II, University of Delaware Press/ Associated University Presses (Newark DE/London and Toronto, 1991), p. 124, cat. 22

Timothy Anglin Burgard, American Art at Harvard: Cultures and Contexts, brochure, Harvard University Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 1994), p. 11, cat. 37

Stephan Wolohojian and Alvin L. Clark, Jr., Harvard Art Museum/ Handbook, ed. Stephan Wolohojian, Harvard Art Museum (Cambridge, 2008), ill. p. 148

Exhibition History

American Art at Harvard, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 04/19/1972 - 06/18/1972

American Art at Harvard: Cultures and Contexts, Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, 10/01/1994 - 12/30/1994

32Q: 2100 19th Century, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/16/2014 - 01/01/2050

Subjects and Contexts

Google Art Project

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of European and American Art at