Whew–it’s been a while. I was going great guns blog-wise when I came down with the Head Cold of Doom, followed by the Sinus Infection of Despair and the Bronchitis of the Damned. The entire family then proceeded to follow the same course, and when it was all over it was Thanksgiving and my blogging mojo had slipped away.
Just to ease myself back into the groove I’ll pass along a link to the mentalfloss.com blog of my recent story for them on Public Works of Art Gone Terribly Wrong. WHAT a hoot to write–and it features, most importantly, George Washington in a togo. Behold:
That is possibly the silliest representation of a great American figure. You can see his nipples! No one should see George Washington’s nipples! I don’t even want to think about him having nipples.
And let us just all pause for a moment in thankfulness that John Adams didn’t get this treatment. Shudders.
It’s odd, really, because this is textbook Neoclassicism, and Neoclassicism is know for giving an aura of seriousness, respectability, gravitas. Traditional banks are Neoclassical, as are government buildings. The Statue of Liberty is Neoclassical. So is the Lincoln Memorial. Yet look at the Horatio Greenough Washington and you just want to giggle.
I think it’s the nakedness. Greenough was trying to evoke ancient depictions of Zeus, but Zeus was a deity:
We don’t mind seeing gods in various states of undress, but the idea of Washington, who was a real guy with false teeth, someone who belched and had to clip his toenails, no matter how well he governed, the idea of him naked is just wrong. It’s undignified, and ridiculous. And that’s why everyone says the poor president is holding his hand up asking someone to hand him his pants.
Finally, it occurs to me that “George Washington in a toga!” would make a great saying whenever you don’t want to cuss in front of your kids.
Update 02/17/2012 — This post remains one of the most popular on my site, and I remain eternally glad that so many of you also appreciate the incongruity that is George Washington in a toga. Should you wish for more juicy details on this work, check out this post, which draws on a new page devoted to the statue.