When Hiram Powers’ sculpture, The Greek Slave, debuted in Britain at The Great Exhibition of 1851, it caused quite a sensation

Abstract

in Britain at The Great Exhibition of 1851, visitors were offered a series of Victorian obsessions with sensational results. The Greek girl, clutching onto a plinth shrouded in an oriental drapery, casts her eyes away from her Turkish master, who exists just off the stage of the dramatic scene; chains offer her only modesty. Her hands are tied, and the only promise appears to be that when the chains are undone, so will she. The Greek slave's milky skin and allusions to Classical sculpture make sure the viewers were in no doubt about the racial purity of the heroine. The dramatic tension of this scene was, of course, already familiar. From Byron's poetry which is littered with Greek women on the verge of being sexually compromised, or dead, to writers like Sydney Owenson whose novel, Woman, or Ida of Athens (1809), presents a young Greek woman who throws herself on the mercy of an Englishman when threatened with a harem and a prospective marriage to a Turk, there was enduring fascination with the enacted or threatened fall of Greece to the Orient. For

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Cite this paper

@inproceedings{Mahn2012WhenHP, title={When Hiram Powers’ sculpture, The Greek Slave, debuted in Britain at The Great Exhibition of 1851, it caused quite a sensation}, author={Churnjeet Kaur Mahn and Hiram Powers}, year={2012} }