Jean-Antoine Houdon (1741—1828)

by Jean-Antoine Houdon (1741—1828)

 

by Jean-Antoine Houdon (1741—1828)

Plaster, painted to resemble terra cotta; cast about 1788; 27 3/4 x 19 1/8 x 12 in. (70.485 x 48.5775 x 30.48 cm).

by Jean-Antoine Houdon (1741—1828)

 

by Jean-Antoine Houdon (1741—1828)

Cast when Marquis de Lafayette was 28.

by Jean-Antoine Houdon (1741—1828)

Based on the life mask cast by Houdon in 1785.

by Jean-Antoine Houdon (1741—1828)

Marble. State Artwork Collection, Library of Virginia, Richmond, VA.

by Jean-Antoine Houdon (1741—1828)

Terra cotta patinated plaster. Thomas Jefferson Foundation, Monticello, Charlottesville, VA.

by Jean-Antoine Houdon (1741—1828)

Plaster. The Morgan Library & Museum, New York, NY.

by Jean-Antoine Houdon (1741—1828)

Based on the life mask cast by Houdon when he visited Mount Vernon in 1785.

by Jean-Antoine Houdon (1741—1828)

Based on the life mask cast by Houdon when he visited Mount Vernon in 1785.

As in the case of his career as commander-in-chief, Washington’s most important act as president was his giving up the office. The significance of his retirement from the presidency is easily overlooked today, but his contemporaries knew what it meant. Most people assumed that Washington might be president as long as he lived, that he would be a kind of elected monarch like the king of Poland. Hence his retirement from the presidency enhanced his moral authority and set a precedent for future presidents.

Gordon S. Wood
Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789–1815 (2009)