Posted on September 06 2019
We love exploring and sharing the history of the people depicted in the art in our collection, which helps to enrich your experience of the collection as a whole.
With that in mind, we thought you might be interested to learn that the Marquis de Lafayette was born 262 years ago today. Many visitors to our gallery remark on Jean-Antoine Houdon’s bust of the American Revolution hero, pictured below. The bust is so striking that it makes one want to learn about this immortalized man.
To acquaint you with him, here is a short biography:
Lafayette was born into a noble family with a military background in Chavaniac, France, and by 1770 he had a large inheritance. As did other Frenchmen, Lafayette sympathized with the American colonists who were protesting British rule, which impassioned him to present himself to Congress in Philadelphia in 1777. His willingness to supply funds and serve without payment and his passion for the colonists’ cause led Congress to name him major-general in the Continental Army. His famous military career in America followed, with Lafayette serving in and leading battles, being stationed at Valley Forge during that historic winter of 1777 to 1778, and acquiring French aid. He played a major role in the decisive 1781 Battle of Yorktown, helping to corner British troops. Lafayette had a close relationship with George Washington and the latter eventually regarded him as a son. After the American Revolution, Lafayette returned to France and became major-general of the army. His interest in America and his relationship with Thomas Jefferson (the ambassador to France) continued as he worked on trade agreements.
If you want to focus solely on his face, you can also take a look at the mask, pictured below:
After the victory at Yorktown, the Virginia General Assembly sought to honor the Marquis de Lafayette. Upon recommendations from Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Barclay, the Assembly commissioned sculptor Jean-Antoine Houdon. The result is the beautiful bust you see above.
We hope you enjoyed this look into the history of the Marquis de Lafayette!
Robert and Kathleen
For further reading check out the biographies of Lafayette on the Monticello website, the National Park Service Yorktown Battlefield webpage, the Biography website, and the Colonial Williamsburg website. You can also find more on the product pages.
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