Where was George Washington? tells the story of how Jean Antoine Houdon came to Mount Vernon to make a life mask of George Washington.

In 1785 Jean Antoine Houdon, a famous French Sculptor, was asked by Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin to make a statue of George Washington. This was before the days of television and photography and it was very important to have a fine artist do Washington’s statue so that everyone in the future would know exactly how he looked.

Houdon and some assistants came to Mount Vernon, George Washington’s home, to make a life mask of George Washington. A life mask is made by spreading plaster on a person’s face. When the plaster dries and is removed, the mask forms a perfect inside-out image of the face. This can then be used as a mold to make the face of a bust or a statue.

Today you can see Houdon’s bust of George Washington at Mount Vernon. www.mountvernon.org/visit/plan/index.cfm/pid/238/

And you can see Houdon’s statue of George Washington in the rotunda of the Capitol in Richmond. www.history.org/foundation/journal/autumn03/houdon.cfm

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