Guests of Honor from the Musée du Louvre: Jean-Antoine Houdon’s Portraits of Americans in the Age of Enlightenment
October 6, 2019 – January 10, 2020
The Detroit Institute of Arts will present a dossier exhibition featuring two masterworks of French eighteenth-century portrait sculpture lent from the Musée du Louvre. Created by the greatest sculptor of the Enlightenment, Jean-Antoine Houdon (1741–1828), the portraits depict two of America’s most iconic founders, Benjamin Franklin and George Washington.
As Guests of Honor, the portraits will be displayed in the company of selected works that similarly depict Franklin, Washington, and Robert Fulton, another early American icon, as among the first to reach celebrity status as enlightened leaders of a new nation. Drawing from the DIA's own holdings and the important loans from the Louvre, the exhibition gives audiences a unique opportunity to explore and compare images of these very familiar personae through art in a wide variety of media.
Presented in our gallery dedicated to the early American republic, the exhibition sets Houdon’s masterful terracotta portraits alongside painting, sculpture, textile, and work on paper, with significant examples of furniture and decorative arts already on view in the gallery providing a greater context of visual culture in the early American republic.
The image above includes the following: (left) Benjamin Franklin, 1778, Jean-Antoine Houdon, French; terra cotta on separate marble base. Courtesy of the Musée du Louvre, Paris. (right) George Washington, 1786, Jean-Antoine Houdon, French; terra cotta on separate marble base. Courtesy of the Musée du Louvre, Paris.