"A portrait is a picture in which there is just a tiny little something not quite right about the mouth." -- John Singer Sargent

Tuesday, December 5, 2017


This marble statue,  Eve Tempted, by Hiram Powers carved between 1873 and 1877 was modeled between 1839 and 1842. It stands in the Smithsonian American Art Museum, in Washington, DC.
Eve Tempted was Hiram Powers’s first full-length ideal statue. It shows Eve contemplating an apple in her hand while a serpent lingers at her side. American audiences in the nineteenth century felt that statues and paintings of nude figures were scandalous, but Powers maintained that ‘clothing would be preposterous, for [Eve] was naked only after she had fallen.’ Her pensive expression anticipates the consequences of her actions, which the artist described in his later piece, Eve Disconsolate.” -- The Luce Center, SAAM.
 “As for her nudity---she does not appear to know that she is so.” – Hiram Powers, quoted in April Kingsley, Hiram Powers’ Paradise Lost, Exhibition Catalogue, 1985.

The snake among the ivy:

This Smithsonian photo of an engraving of Powers' Florence Studio shows Eve Tempted standing on the right side next to The Slave Girl.

Donald M. Reynolds in his 1977 book,  Hiram Powers and his Ideal Sculpture, quotes Powers' facetious description of Eve.
“She is an old fashioned body, and not so near well-formed and attractive in her person, as are her granddaughters, at least some of them, She wears her hair in a natural and most primitive manner - drawn back from her temples and hanging loose behind, thus exposing that very ugly feature in women - temples. Her waist is quite too large for our modern notions of beauty, and her feet - oh - murder! They are so very broad and large! Did ever a body see such long toes! They have never been wedged into form by the nice and pretty little shoes worn by her lovely descendants - and then how ugly she would appear with clothes all - so ridiculously flat and perpendicular below the waist behind. It would require a cartload of cotton, at least, to correct this formation. But Eve is very stiff and unyielding in her disposition and I am afraid she will refuse to conform to the improved Ideas of her more refined daughters. In regard to her hair, she prefers Convenience to fashion - and she is willing to expose as much of her face as was left destitute of hair by her maker. She will not allow her waist to be reduced by bandaging, because she is far more comfortable as she is and, besides, she has some regard for her health, which might suffer from such restraint upon her heart, lungs, liver, etc.... I could never prevail upon her to wear modern shoes - for she dreads corns - which she says are neither convenient nor ornamental - and as for her nudity - she does not appear to know that she is so ... .”

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