Hiram Powers (American, 18051873)
Marble; 34 3/4 x 23 1/2 x 15 1/2 in. (88.3 x 59.7 x 39.4 cm)
This portrait, arguably Powers' finest, launched his career. Although his Cincinnati patron Nicholas Longworth had offered to sponsor a trip to Italy, Powers felt it would be better to establish himself as an artist by demonstrating his talent through likenesses he made of important American political figures. With financing provided by Longworth and letters of introduction that gained him access to President Andrew Jackson (17671845), Powers went to Washington, D.C., in the fall of 1834. Jackson sat for Powers in a room next to the president's sitting room in the White House. When Powers asked the president's opinion about his portrait, Jackson responded: "Make me as I am, Mr. Powers. I have no desire to look young as long as I feel old: and then it seems to me, although I don't know much about sculpture, that the only object in making a bust is to get a representation of the man who sits, that it shall be as nearly as possible a perfect likeness. If he has no teeth, why then make him with teeth?" The model, which was completed in several sittings by January 1835, realistically depicts the sixty-seven-year-old Jackson with his head and gaze turned to his left, his long lean face deeply marked with wrinkles, his mouth and cheeks sunken from lack of teeth, and his creased forehead set off by a shock of thick, brushed-back hair. The only aspects of the bust that relate it to the Neoclassical mode are the unincised eyeballs and the toga. Along with other portrait busts of statesmen, this work was translated into marble after Powers settled in Florence permanently in 1837.