Cyrus E. Dallin, born Springville, UT 1861-died Arlington Heights, MA 1944
Thiébaut Frères, founded Paris, France 1885-closed 1901
overall: 42 1/4 x 43 1/8 x 15 3/8 in. (107.4 x 109.6 x 39.1 cm.)
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine, Thomas W. Evans Collection
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In 1889, Dr. Thomas W. Evans, a wealthy dentist living in Paris, commissioned Cyrus Dallin to create a "colossal" statue of French general Marquis de Lafayette (1757-1834) on horseback. Evans was inspired by France's gift of Frederic Bartholdi's Statue of Liberty (a model of which is on display in the main galleries) and wanted to honor the French "in gratitude for the services that Lafayette and his companions in arms rendered" in the American Revolution. Lafayette was an aristocrat who shared the ideals of French liberal intellectuals of the time. At the age of nineteen, against the strict veto of King Louis XVI, Lafayette enlisted in Washington's Continental army as a volunteer. He proved himself worthy of command, and Washington soon promoted him to major general "in consideration of his zeal, illustrious family and connexions." Lafayette later became a leader of the French Revolution and wrote his country's Declaration of Rights based on Thomas Jefferson's Declaration of Independence. Dallin wanted to portray the nobleman as a leader of his people, so he cast Lafayette on horseback, posed as if he were surveying his troops.