“George Washington never looked so good,” both Melania Trump and Michael “Michelle” Obummer agreed, after seeing the first U.S. president "up close and personal."
"I knew he was tall," Michael said, "but I had no idea he was that big. I think he must have some black genes in his ancestry."
"His size gives new meaning to 'Washington Monument,'" Melania agreed.
The First and Second Ladies were talking about Italian sculptor Antonio “Casanova” Canova's nude study of Washington—the man, not the city or the state—which the sculptor chiseled in preparation for the full-figure-size sculpture, complete with clothes, which Canova was commissioned to carve c. 1821.
Canova received the commission despite the fact that he was not much of a sculptor. According to contemporary reports, he “seemed to struggle with the [figure's] arms as he worked to show Washington writing his farewell address on a stone tablet, laboring to “get the muscles” right.
Prior to his work on Washington, Canova sculpted mostly slender boys and an occasional bust of a girl, struggling to get the female figure's “bosom” correct. Critics suggest the artist's female breasts more often resembled a cow's udders than they did the mammary glands of a girl in the flower of womanhood.
Although Washington's genitals, especially his “manly” phallus, may surprise, or even shock, Americans, “it's no big big deal,” Canova wrote in a journal entry concerning the statue, then a work in progress. (The phallus is rather small, by all accounts.) “I always do a nude model of my pieces so I can picture how the body looks under the drapery.”
A mystery remains, however: why did Canova depict Washington with an erection?