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Colby College. Art Dept.


On an April evening in 1859, Louise Corcoran, the only child of fabulously wealthy banker, philanthropist, and art collector William Wilson Corcoran, married George Eustis Jr., a United States congressman from Louisiana, in her father’s Washington, D.C., mansion. A “select circle” of more than one thousand guests witnessed the ceremony, which took place in Corcoran’s private art gallery. Writing of the wedding for Harper’s Weekly, George Washington Jenkins noted that one of the original versions of Hiram Powers’s celebrated marble statue The Greek Slave stood at one end of the gallery, “in a bay window which forms a fitting shrine.”

As an integral part of Louise Corcoran’s genteel wedding, Powers’s sculpture was a model of “true womanhood” and —by extension —a call for chivalrous male behavior. It did not function there as a universal image of human bondage but, rather, as a fearsome warning of what might befall a beautiful white female unprotected by a strong, loving man.


Originally published: American Art 24 (2010), pp. 41-65.



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