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Who Is That Man, Anyway?
Subject: George Washington
Sculptor: Horatio Greenough
Location: The Mall
( Madison Drive & 14th )
Congress made seven attempts to honor George Washingto (1732-1799)n; this was Try Number 4. In 1832, Greenough was commissioned to design a statue of General Washington standing, but chose to model his statue on a statue of the Greek God Zeus. There may have been some method in his madness.
The original Mills design for the Washington Monument would have included a Greek temple on top of which there was supposed to be a statue of George Washington driving a six-horse chariot. A close examination of the artist's rendering of this design indicates that the Greenough statue looks amazingly like the Mills chariot driver.
One suspects he was seeking a larger commission, since acceptance of this statue would have also generated the commission for the six horses. This theory helps to explain the very awkward position of Washington's left hand -- it was supposed to be holding the reins of the chariot.
The statue is made of 12 tons of white marble and is so heavy it began to crack the floor of the Rotunda in the Capitol when it was installed there in 1841. It was moved to the East Front of the Capitol in 1843 and travelled around the grounds of the Hill until it was finally presented to the Museum of History and Technology (now the American History Museum).
Photos and text copyright © 2001 Jean K. Rosales and Michael R. Jobe, All Rights Reserved
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