A life mask of George Washington after the antique by Houdon

An absolutely superb mask of George Washington after the antique by Houdon.

This example dates to 1907 and is initialled ‘TR’.

In 1785 the French sculptor Jean-Antoine Houdon visited George Washington (1732–1799) at his Mount Vernon residence. There he observed the general and made a plaster cast of his face—the Morgan's life mask. He then used the mask to complete the face on his clay bust of Washington, which he left at Mount Vernon (Fig. 1). Houdon returned with the life mask to Paris, where he sculpted the final marble life-size sculpture of Washington now in the Richmond Capitol (Fig. 2). The statue was commissioned by the Virginia legislature and was erected in 1796, the year Washington issued his farewell address following his second term as president. The Morgan's life mask of Washington is unique and represents the truest likeness of the country's first president. Pierpont Morgan likely acquired the mask in Rome from the son of the American sculptor William Wetmore Story.*

A superb piece, life sized, which displays excellently.


All approximate

Height 32cm

Width 24cm

Depth 15cm


*In order to make a mold of Washington's face, Houdon had the general lie down. He prepared Washington's face with a protective layer of grease and covered his eyes before adding a coat of wet plaster, inserting straws in the general's nose so that he could breathe. Once the plaster hardened, Houdon removed the cast and poured plaster into the mold to make a positive model, destroying the mold in the process. It is this positive model that constitutes the Morgan's life mask. Because Washington's eyes were closed, in the final mask Houdon had to sculpt the open eyes based on caliper measurements, as well as retouch the nostrils, which were hampered by the breathing apparatus. The air bubbles in Washington's cheeks were produced as the plaster settled in the mold.


Condition: Where there are specific points to note we will detail these as far as possible but please be aware that all our items have wear commensurate with age and are as seen in the photographs. If you require any specific information please do not hesitate to get in contact. As seen in the images, but not limited to: some surface wear commensurate with age.



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