Portrait Sculpture Busts
This bust of George Washington is made after the marble statue of George Washington which stands in the rotunda of the Virginia Capitol. Houdon made the statue in 1785 at the behest of the Virginia legislature. Thomas Jefferson was the principle figure in obtaining the commission. Benjamin Franklin accompanied Houdon on his trip from France to America, where Houdon with the help of three assistants, made a clay maquette and plaster bust of George Washington at Mt. Vernon. Houdon also made a mould of Washingtons face which he brought with him back to France together with a bust. Houdon used Governeur Morris, Minister to France as a stand in model for Washington while sculpting the body. The statue shows Washington with his head lifted, dressed in his regimentals, the vest unbuttoned at the top, his slight plumpness not concealed. Houdon made many busts of George Washington, in terracotta, plaster, marble, and probably bronze. The terracotta at Mt. Vernon shows Washington with a bare chest and his hair tied in the back with a riband and hanging down the back.
This bust portrays Washington the hero, the great leader, not unlike a Roman imperator. His expression reveals the reflective mood of the philosopher-ruler.