Monday, July 20, 2009


Despite the many variations in the manner that George Washington was portrayed in paintings, there are also many consistent features in such paintings. These include the Roman shaped nose, the crease in Washington's chin, his high forehead, the scar on one cheek, and the general shape of his hair. But actually we are fairly confident that we know what George Washington really looked like. This is because in October of 1785 a life mask and a life bust were made of George Washington at Mount Vernon by French sculpture Jean-Antoine Houdon. He had been commissioned to make a statue of George Washington by the State of Virginia which now stands in the rotunda of the Virginia State Capitol, after being recommended for such a task by Thomas Jefferson. The statue was made in France using Gouveneur Morris as the life model for sculpting George Washington's body. But the face of the statue came from a life mask that Houdon made of Washington at Mount Vernon. Afterwards, while still at Mount Vernon, Houdon also made a clay bust (see above) that Houdon presented as a gift to George Washington before he left. It is now on display in the museum at Mount Vernon, while the Morgan Library in New York City owns the original Houdon life mask of George Washington.

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