Jean Antoine Houdon, a French sculptor, born in Versailles, March 20, 1741, died in Paris, July 15, 1828. Having gained the first prize for sculpture" in the royal academy at Paris, he passed ten years in Rome, and finished, among other works, the statue of St. Bruno in the church of Sta. Maria degli Angeli. Returning to Paris, he executed during the next 15 years admirable busts of Rousseau, Diderot, D'Alembert, Gluck, Turgot, Franklin, Mirabeau, and many other distinguished men; statues of Voltaire and Tourville; the "Diana" for the empress of Russia ; the "Shivering Woman," and other works, which placed him in the first rank of French sculptors, and procured his admission to the academy. He made at this time the statue of a muscular skeleton of the human body, which he afterward reproduced in smaller size, and which has been often copied and used for the artistic study of anatomy. In 1785 he accompanied Franklin to the United States, to prepare the model for the statue of Washington ordered by the state of Virginia, and passed two weeks at Mount Vernon for that purpose.
The statue, bearing the sculptor's legend, Fait par Houdon, citoyen francais, 1788, in the hall of the capitol at Richmond, according to the testimony of Lafayette and other personal friends of Washington, is the best representation of him ever made. Among his later works were busts of Napoleon and Josephine and other celebrities of the first empire, and the statue of Cicero in the Luxembourg palace.