Friday, September 13, 2013

George Washington in Bronze

Yesterday, we had our kick-off meeting with New York-based Studio EIS who will be designing the bronze statue of George Washington, which will be placed in the spot where he stood to resign his commission on December 23, 1783. Along with Washington, Studio EIS will also be creating a faux-bronze statue of Annapolitan Molly Ridout, who watched the resignation from the visitor's gallery in the chamber.

The creation of a lifelike historic statue requires a precise blend of detailed research and creativity. Studio EIS has a large amount of experience with creating lifelike statues of historical figures, including Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and Abraham Lincoln. Their work also appears at Mt. Vernon, Monticello, Montpelier and on the steps of the New York Historical Society. Last April, members of our project team were able to visit their studio to see their remarkable work by their talented artists and to discuss the design and fabrication process.

The National Constitution Center's Signers' Hall features 42 bronze figures, all created by Studio EIS. Image courtesy of Studio EIS.

The creation of the statue will take place in several stages. Detailed research into everything from Washington's height and facial expression to the design of the buttons on his coat will be compiled and analyzed. The final piece will first be sculpted in clay, which allows tweaking in order to get the perfect pose. At that point, the statue will begin to be crafted in a careful process which begins with creating a mold, transporting the pieces to a foundry, and casting and assembling the cast pieces into a single bronze statue. The final step will be spraying the statue with patina, an acid etch into the bronze which creates the color of the statue. Apart from being aesthetically appealing, the patina will protect the statue from any corrosion or damage.

The kick-off meeting with Studio EIS included a visit to the Old Senate Chamber, 13 September 2013.
One challenge facing the sculptors will be the importance of capturing the emotion of the resignation ceremony. Witnesses to the resignation all wrote of being greatly affected by, as James McHenry put it, the "solemn and affecting spectacle; such a one as history does not present."[1] We hope that the statues of George Washington and Molly Ridout will help to capture the mood in the Chamber of that day!

For more information on Studio EIS, please visit their website.

[1] Letter, James McHenry to Margaret (Peggy) Caldwell, 23 December 1783, MSA SC 5664-1-2.

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