Photographer's Note

Virginia's most treasured work of art, a magnificent, life-size statue of George Washington, stands in the Rotunda, located in the central portion of the State Capitol Building.

This sculpture of Washington is the only one executed from life. In June 1784 the General Assembly commissioned a statue to be made "of the finest marble and best workmanship" as a tribute to the great commander. Governor Benjamin Harrison wrote to Thomas Jefferson, our American minister in Paris, requesting him to engage a sculptor. He secured the services of Jean Antoine Houdon, the noted French artist. In the fall of 1785, just as Clérisseau was completing the plans for the Capitol, Houdon visited Mount Vernon. He made a plaster bust of Washington's head and took detailed measurements of his body. (left: Jean Antoine Houdon (French), George Washington, 1788, Carrara marble)

The statue, carved of Carrara marble, bears Houdon's signature and the date 1788. Prior to being shipped to America in May 1796, it was exhibited at the Louvre in Paris. Since its arrival in Virginia, the statue has been on continuous display in the Capitol. It was viewed by many of Washington's contemporaries, all of whom attested to its perfect likeness of the General. "That is the man, himself," Lafayette said, "I can almost realize he is going to move."

Dramatic natural lighting on the statue is achieved by the skylights in the Rotunda's ceiling. The statue presents Washington erect, head uncovered, sword on the left, cane in the right hand -- representing in device what Washington had so forcibly expressed in his reply to the address of the General Assembly of Virginia: the subordination of the military to the civil power. The fasces and ploughshare are by his side; the one representing authority, power and honor and the other, the peaceful arts most congenial to his taste and feelings. Houdon's monument to America's foremost Revolutionary War hero recalls his life as a soldier, statesman, and lover of the peaceful arts.

Available as an art print on Canvas or paper - order direct from my website

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