Baltimore’s Washington Monument Looks Nothing Like George Washington

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Washington Monument
Baltimore’s Washington Monument at preferred viewing distance.

Baltimore’s Washington Monument claims many distinctions — it was the first monument planned to honor George Washington; at 178 feet high it was an “engineering marvel in its day” — but resembling the first president is not among them.

The scaffolding that surrounds the monument while it undergoes restoration has afforded some the opportunity finally to see the statue up close.¬†Baltimore Business Journal‘s Kevin Litten recently scaled the monument to take some very intimate pictures of Washington’s oversize mug, and the results are surprising.

Not only does Washington appear to be looking in two directions at once; he has the forehead of a Neanderthal. One commenter pronounced the likeness Simpsons-worthy.

The sculptor, Enrico Causici, doesn’t appear to be a slouch, judging by his other work. Maybe it was a prank?

Take a look at the pictures yourself.

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  1. This is an old sculptor trick. The statue was never meant to be viewed at ground level, only from far below. The sculptor distorts features so they look more distinct from the intended viewing distance. Michelangelo did the same thing with his statue of David. It has disproportionately large hands, but appears “correct” when viewed from the intended angle.

  2. The reason it looks so strange is, of course, that the figure was sculpted to be viewed from below, at a distance. This means that size and perspective needed to be skewed and exaggerated in order to look correct from the perspective of us way down on the ground.

  3. I had the same initial reaction as the posters above. The statue is meant to be viewed from 200 feet below so the proportions would have to nudged a bit here and there. It’s also why there are almost no plumb and straight lines on the Parthenon even though they appear straight.

  4. Certainly there are things about the sculpture that are distorted to be viewed from the ground (Washington’s pouffy hair, for instance), but I think what this article is pointing out is that there are features of the sculpture that look absurd which can’t be seen from the ground, like the irises of the eyes pointing in two different directions. Why would they be distorted to be seen better from the ground? Who can see Washington’s irises from the ground anyway?

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