Benjamin Franklin

Artist

Jean-Antoine Houdon (French 1741–1828)

Date

about 1778

Medium

Plaster

Dimensions

33 1/8 x 26 1/4 x 16 3/16 in. (84.2 x 66.6 x 41.1 cm) (integral base)

Description
Photograph by Jerry L. Thompson for the Boston Athenæum.
Credit Line

Gift of the estate of George Francis Parkman, 1908 [?]

Object Number

UH151

Marquis de Lafayette

Artist

Jean-Antoine Houdon (French 1741–1828)

Date

before 1789

Medium

Plaster

Dimensions

29 7/16 x 20 1/16 x 19 3/4 in. (74.7 x 51 x 50.2 cm) (integral base)

Credit Line

Athenæum purchase, 1828

Object Number

UH149

George Washington

Artist

Jean-Antoine Houdon (French 1741–1828)

Date

about 1786

Medium

Plaster

Dimensions

21 5/16 x 14 3/16 x 11 5/16 in. (54.1 x 36 x 28.7 cm) (integral base)

Description

The preeminent French sculptor Jean-Antoine Houdon sailed to the United States in 1785 to fulfill a commission from the American Congress to produce an equestrian monument to George Washington. That project was later abandoned. Nonetheless, at Mount Vernon, Houdon took a life mask and a made a clay bust of Washington. After his return to Paris, he used these to create a life-size, full-length portrait of the president for the Virginia State Capitol building in Richmond. (The first cast ever permitted to be made of that statue is also in the Athenæum’s collection.)

Houdon also produced busts of Washington, including this one, which established the sculptural iconography for depicting the great man for nearly every American sculptor and painter who followed. The Athenæum’s bust is not only a great example of neoclassical portraiture, it also has a stunning provenance: it was purchased in Paris by Thomas Jefferson for shipment to Monticello and, later, following Jefferson’s death in 1826, was deposited at the Athenæum by his heirs.

Photograph by Jerry L. Thompson for the Boston Athenæum.

Credit Line

Gift of the heirs of Joseph Coolidge, Jr., 1912

Object Number

UH150

Francois-Marie Arout Voltaire

Artist

Jean-Antoine Houdon (French 1741–1828)

Date

20th century

Medium

Terra cotta

Dimensions

14 15/16 x 11 x 7 7/8 in. (38 x 28 x 20 cm)

Description
Photograph by Jerry L. Thompson for the Boston Athenæum.
Object Number

UH122

Jean Jacques Rousseau

Artist

Jean-Antoine Houdon (French 1741–1828)

Date

20th century

Medium

Terra cotta

Dimensions

14 15/16 x 11 x 7 7/8 in. (38 x 28 x 20 cm)

Description
Photograph by Jerry L. Thompson for the Boston Athenæum.
Object Number

UH121