24 in. (60.96 cm)
McGuigan Collection. Artwork in the public domain.
Hiram Powers’ Greek Slave depicts a Greek woman enslaved by the army of the Ottoman Empire during the Greek War of Independence. Sculpted in white marble, it captivated audiences upon being first exhibited. White marble was considered void of race; however, the sculpture’s subject was coded as white and palatable to a Euro-American audience. For American abolitionists, the Greek Slave’s parallels to the contemporaneous treatment of enslaved Black women were hard to ignore. Many viewers believed that the Greek woman symbolically represented the Black bodies of enslaved Africans in the United States. While not explicitly depicting the Black body in sculptural form, the subject matter evokes and makes possible the interpretation of the Black female nude in neoclassical sculpture.