Overall: 25 x 20 1/2 x 13 in. ( 63.5 x 52.1 x 33 cm )
inscriptions: back of base: "H Powers/Sculpt"
The eighth president of the United States was born at Kinderhook, New York, the son of Abraham and Maria (Hoes) Van Buren. After studying law, he was admitted to the bar in 1803 and began his practice at Kinderhook. From 1816 to 1819, he was attorney general of New York, becoming an influential figure in state politics. Van Buren was elected U.S. senator in 1821 and eight years later became governor of the state, but resigned before his term had expired to become U.S. secretary of state in 1829 under President Andrew Jackson. In 1832, he was elected vice-president as Jackson's running mate, and four years later was elected to the presidency, an office he held from 1837 to 1841. He was defeated for re-election by William Henry Harrison, and although still a powerful figure in the Democratic party, he was never again a successful candidate for public office. From 1853 to 1855 he lived in Europe, and upon his return he retired to Kinderhook.
Hiram Powers began his career as a sculptor about 1829 in Cincinnati. He spent the years 1835 to 1837 in Washington, D.C. While there he modeled the likenesses of many eminent men including Van Buren, who was then vice-president of the United States. Nineteenth-century art critic Henry Tuckerman praised the bust's "individuality and exquisite finish." When Powers sailed for Florence, Italy in the fall of 1837, he took plaster busts of these men and several others with him. In the years that followed, a number of plaster and marble replicas of each issued from his studio; the marble copies were often carved by the Italian stonecutters who worked there. This marble descended through Van Buren's family before it was given to the N-YHS.
Other marble versions of this sculpture are at the Martin Van Buren National Historic Site and in the collection of the White House. The White House collection also holds Henry Inman's portrait of Angelica (Singleton) Van Buren, the president's daughter-in-law, who acted as hostess for the widowed Van Buren. In it, Powers's marble bust of Van Buren is prominently represented beside Angelica.
Gift of Mrs. Richard Lewis Morris, through her sister, Mrs. F. L. Pell
Due to ongoing research, information about this object is subject to change.
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New-York Historical Society
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