Statue of George Washington

Item

Legacies Classification
Memorial Artwork
Memorial Type
Sculptural Memorial
Memorial Context
Memorialized Subject
Washington, George
Title
Statue of George Washington
Background and Context
The bronze statue of Washington is a cast of the original "Houdon Statue" created in 1788 by the French artist Jean-Antoine Houdon. The casting was done in 1856 by William James Hubard and at the behest of the commonwealth government, with Virginia Military Institute slated to host this copy. The statue was dedicated by the Governor of Virginia, Henry Alexander Wise, in 1856.

On June 13th, 1864, General David Hunter of the Union Army sacked VMI. Union soldiers recognized the symbolism of the statue—Confederates often claimed to be the heirs of Washington’s legacy—and removed the statue from VMI. The statue was initially bound for West Point, however, it was re-routed to Wheeling, West Virginia before being returned in VMI in 1866.

Confederate governer of Virginia and former VMI Board of Visitors member, John Letcher rededicated the statue on September 10, 1866 (with the rumored attendance of Robert E. Lee) The speech included a scathing attack against General Hunter. Letcher also praised VMI and its alumni for their service to the Confederacy. This affair presaged the Lost Cause dedication speeches frequently delivered at the dedication of Confederate soldier monuments in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

The statue has since remained at its place of rededication. Nowadays, cadets traditionally place various pies, cakes, and other baked goods at the base of the statue for good luck on final exams.
Physical Description
The bronze statue is situated on a marble base and includes an inscription written by James Madison. It depicts George Washington wearing boots, breeches, an undershirt, a vest, an overcoat with military shoulder tablets, and a sash wrapped around his neck. In his right hand, he holds a walking cane. His left arm is placed atop a Roman-style fasces, which excludes the often present ax head, in its place is a draped jacket. Leaning on the fasces is a sword and a plow. There are numerous nodes of Washington's military service, notably the military attire and sword. On the other hand, the fasces is a roman symbol of strength and military might. The plow serves as a node towards the ideals of Cincinnatus, which include military, political, and agricultural service.
Memorial Inscription
George Washington

The General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Virginia have caused this Statue to be erected as a monument of affection and gratitude to GEORGE WASHINGTON; who, uniting to the endowments of the Hero, the virtues of the Patriot, and exerting both in establishing the Liberties of his Country has rendered his name dear to his Fellow-Citizens, and given the world an immortal example of true Glory ~ Done, in the year of CHRIST One thousand seven hundred and eighty-eight and in the year of the Commonwealth the twelfth.
Creator/Participating Person(s)
Sculpted by French artisan Jean-Antoine Houdon.
Casted by William James Hubard.
Date created, installed or dedicated
3 July 1856
Date Modified
June 1864
10 September 1866
Location: Institution, City, State

Position: 322 (7 views)