Joy of Museums

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“George Washington” by Horatio Greenough

George Washington Greenough statue

“George Washington” by Horatio Greenough

This statue of George Washington is a massive sculpture by Horatio Greenough commissioned for the 100th year anniversary of U.S President George Washington’s birth. Washington who was born in 1732, is depicted seated with his chest bare and with his right arm and hand gesturing with an index finger pointing towards the heavens. His left-hand cradles a sheathed sword, with the sword handle forward, symbolising Washington turning over power to the people at the conclusion of the American Revolutionary War.

The rear base of the George Washington statue has a Latin inscription, which in translation reads:

“Horatio Greenough made this image as a great example of freedom, which will not survive without freedom itself.”

The U.S. Congress commissioned Greenough to create a statue of Washington for display in the U.S. Capitol rotunda. The statue, however, created controversy and criticism, as many found the sight of a half-naked Washington offensive or comical. The statue was relocated to the east lawn of the Capitol and as disapproval continued it was moved again and eventually transferred it to the Smithsonian.

Horatio Greenough based this statue of the first president of the U.S on the ancient statue of Zeus at Olympia which was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.  It was a giant seated figure of the Greek God, about 13 m (43 ft) tall, made by the famous Greek sculptor Phidias around 435 BC. It was destroyed during the 5th century AD, and details of its form are known only from ancient Greek descriptions and representations on coins.

Exploring George Washington in Art

Reflections

  • Would this statue have been more acceptable if it had been created 100 years later?
  • Will this statue be moved to a more popular place 100 years from now?
  • Why is Washington DC filled with Ancient Greek symbols?
  • How do you feel about this image of Washington?

“George Washington” by Horatio Greenough

  • Title:                  George Washington Statue
  • Artist:                Horatio Greenough
  • Year:                  1832
  • Material:           Carrara marble
  • Dimensions:     3.5 m × 2.6 m (136 in × 102 in × 82 1/2 in)
  • Museum:           National Museum of American History

Horatio Greenough

  • Artist:       Horatio Greenough
  • Born:        1805 – Boston, Massachusetts
  • Died:        1852 (aged 48) – Somerville, Massachusetts
  • Nationality:  American

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“Isn’t it astonishing that all these secrets have been preserved for so many years just so we could discover them!”
– Orville Wright

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Photo Credit: By Wknight94 talk (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons