Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley L. Klos. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton
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HOUDON, Jean Antoine (oo-don'), French sculptor, born in Versailles, France, 20 March, 1740; died in Paris, 15 July, 1828. He studied his art under Michel Ange Slodtz, and later under Pigale, and while in the Ecole des beaux arts, when only nineteen years of age, took the first prize for sculpture, which involved a residence in Italy. He spent ten years in Rome at a period when the excavation of Herculaneum and Pompeii, and the writings of Winckelmann, had given new impulse to art. Among other works he there finished a colossal statue of St. Bruno, of which Clement XIV. said: "He would speak, if the rule of his order did not prescribe silence." Returning to Paris, he executed during the next fifteen years many masterpieces, which placed him in the front rank of French sculptors and procured his admission to the academy. In 1785 he accompanied Franklin to the United States to prepare a model for the statue of Washington which had been ordered by the state of Virginia, and passed two weeks at Mount Vernon for that purpose. The statue, bearing the sculptor's legend, "Fair par Houdon, citoyen francais, 1788," and which now stands in the hall of the capitol at Richmond, is clad in the uniform of an American Revolutionary officer, and, according to the testimony of personal friends of Washington, is in many respects the best representation of him that ever has been made. Among Houdon's later works were busts of Napoleon and Josephine, and other celebrities of the first empire, and the noted statue of Cicero in the palace of the Luxembourg. After the execution of the latter work he lost his memory, and was compelled to give up his profession. He had none of the other common infirmities of age, and so venerable was his appearance that the artist Gerard introduced him in his picture, "Entry of Henri IV. into Paris," as one of the magistrates who presented the king with the keys of the city.
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