28 February 2010
Smithsonian National Museum of American History - Washington DC
George Washington, sculpture by Horatio Greenough, 1840
To commemorate the centennial of Washington's birth in 1832, Congress commissioned a statue to be displayed in the Capitol Rotunda. As soon as the marble statue arrived in the capital city in 1841, however, it attracted controversy and criticism. Greenough had modeled his figure of Washington on a classical Greek statue of Zeus, but many Americans found the sight of a half-naked Washington offensive, even comical. After the statue was relocated to the east lawn of the Capitol in 1843, some joked that Washington was desperately reaching for his clothes, on exhibit at the Patent Office several blocks to the north. In 1908 Greenough's statue finally came in from the cold: Congress transferred it to the Smithsonian. It remained at the Castle until 1964, when it was moved to the new Museum of History and Technology (now the National Museum of American History). The marble Washington has held court on the second floor ever since.