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Letter from GEORGE PERKINS MARSH to HIRAM POWERS, dated June 9, 1853.

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Title: Letter from GEORGE PERKINS MARSH to HIRAM POWERS, dated June 9, 1853.


  • Marsh, George Perkins, 1801-1882


  • Powers, Hiram, 1805-1873

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Extent: 1 letter

Genre(s): letter



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Letter from GEORGE PERKINS MARSH to HIRAM POWERS, dated June 9, 1853., Part of the Hiram Powers and Powers Family Papers, microfilmed by the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institute, and loaned by the Cincinnati Historical Society., (accessed January 23, 2018)

Letter from GEORGE PERKINS MARSH to HIRAM POWERS, dated June 9, 1853.

Transcribed by : Ralph H. Orth and Ellen Mazur Thomson

TEI mark-up by : James P. Tranowski andEllen Mazur Thomson

Published by: University of Vermont. All rights reserved.

Publication Information

Athens June 9' 1853

Dear Powers

Since I left Florence, I have led too uncertain a sort of life, to be able to compose myself for writing, & am now, little better settled than before. We spent three weeks at Naples, & ten days on the passage hither & have now been almost six weeks at Athens. I made my communications to the government very soon after my arrival, & was promised an immediate reply but have as yet received none. How much longer I shall be detained is quite uncertain, but I hope to leave for Constantinople in a few days.

We find every thing here as we left it, though the excavations made to discover the entrance to the Acropolis by a French gentleman have led to some interesting results as to the topography of that spot. No sculpture was discover- -------------------------------- Page -------------------------------- ed, and Athens has been so often plundered of all that was thought worth carrying off, that I do not believe much statuary will ever be found here. The most interesting questions relating to art, which further researches in Greece are likely to solve, are those connected with both the principles of architecture & the rules of construction followed by the Greek architects, and that curious one, of the extent to which colour was used in architectural decoration. Mr Penrose's late works published by the Dilettanti Society give valuable information on all these points, & when other Greek remains shall have been as carefully studied as the Parthenon has by Mr Penrose, we shall derive a great deal of useful practical knowledge of construction as well as many important suggestions for the improvement of modern architecture as a decorative art, from the investigation. In the remoter provincial towns of Greece, there is room to hope that much may yet be recovered which escaped the -------------------------------- Page -------------------------------- rapacity of the lords of Rome and Byzantium. I have just seen a statue recently found at Lamía not far from the ancient Thermopylae. It is a nude boy resting his hand & part of his weight on a duck, which is perched or rather lying on the top of a small square column. It is about 2 feet high of Parian marble, &, excepting a little corrosion of surface is in perfect preservation. It is a work of a very high order of merit. I do not think that any ancient statue exists in so good a condition. The nose, the ears, the extremities, the entire figure of the duck, bill included, are all preserved; nothing in short is wanting and I consider it as entitled to a place in the very front rank of the works of ancient art which have come down to us. By persons who are not familiar with the living oriental, the abdomen should be thought too prominent, but in the Greek & Turkish children -------------------------------- Page -------------------------------- under ten, this is universal, & the statue is exactly true to nature.

At Naples, I went to see the Prince of Syracuse. I found him hard at work on a group of life size in clay--Christ preaching liberty to the captive. He is a very fertile artist, & his works greatly exceed yours--in number. At the same time he is not without taste & talent, & had he enjoyed the advantages of poverty, might have made a name in the profession. He has a large number of sculptors in his employment engaged on his own works, & really does honour to his rank.

I saw the vases--terra cotta & glass--he has found at Cumae, as well as some very fine, but mutilated sculptures, and the curious waxen mask found with a headless skeleton at the same city. This is an extremely curious object, I think -------------------------------- Page -------------------------------- evidently a portrait, but whether a cast from a mould from the face I can't say. At any rate, it is skilfully done, and being unique, is a great treasure. It is not older than the time of Diocletian, one of the coins of that emperor having been found in the same tomb, but it is probably very little later, & may claim an antiquity of at least 1500 years.

As you see, I am not recalled yet, but I understand a Cincinnati man one Mr Corry lays claim to my place. I doubt whether he will get it, though I cannot pretend to be sure that I shall keep it.

Every body's head here is turned with turning of tables. I have seen several experiments pronounced successful by the most famous operators. All -------------------------------- Page -------------------------------- these, and I believe all the rest, were humbugs, gross, monstrous, palpable. I wonder how anybody can be imposed upon by such a transparent imposture.

I have just heard from George. He was at Basle on the 29' of May. He says nothing of his plans, & I do not know whether he even means to return to Florence, though I take it he does. In any event, I trust he will never forget the kindness of yourself, Mrs Powers, & your children towards him. We are also quite in the dark as to Mrs Paine's movements, having heard nothing from her since she left Florence. I shall be glad to hear from you, when you have an idle hour. Direct to Constantinople & let me know how the rasp comes on at the Patent Office. Kind remembrances to Kellogg, Gould, & the Whites, (What a pity I can't say the Kelloggs and Gould,.) as well as to Mrs Powers & the children

Yours truly

G P Marsh note:Mr Hiram Powers

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