Without the Classics, Our History Is Incomprehensible

Horatio Greenough’s Enthroned Washington at the Smithsonian Institution Building in 1908. (Smithsonian Institution Archives)
Those who want to cancel the classics are leaving us with an impoverished sense of ourselves and our forebears.

NRPLUS MEMBER ARTICLE O n July 14, 1832, the United States Congress commissioned a marble statue of George Washington to be sculpted in celebration of the centennial of his birth. The sculptor Horatio Greenough completed the work in 1840, and his Enthroned Washington is still on display today at the National Museum of American History.

From a strict historical perspective, the sculpture is something of an anachronism. The bare-chested Washington is draped in a Roman toga and clad in Roman sandals. Seated on an ornately carved chair (again, crafted according to the regnant style of Greco-Roman antiquity), he points the index finger of his right

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