Featured Objects from Heads of State

Featured exhibition objects from Heads of State

  • Artwork
    This object was probably a souvenir made for the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia. George Washington, who had led the Colonial army to victory against the British, was the natural choice as America’s first head of state. If he had chosen to run for a third term, he undoubtedly would have won it. Although there were no term limits at that time, he decided to retire, in part because he wanted to underscore the fact that the presidency was elective and not hereditary.
  • Artwork
    This bust was made for the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia, where Gillinder erected a working glass factory. Other souvenirs sold at this world’s fair included busts of Presidents Washington and Grant, Benjamin Franklin, William Shakespeare, and Jenny Lind, who was known as the “Swedish Nightingale.” Because he led the United States through the Civil War, the greatest upheaval between the founding of the nation and the attack on Pearl Harbor, Abraham Lincoln has been second only to George Washington in the esteem of the American public. The country was shocked by his assassination, which occurred only five days after the Confederate general, Robert E. Lee, surrendered at Appomattox, ending the war. Lincoln was shot by John Wilkes Booth, a little-known actor with Southern sympathies, while he was attending a performance at Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C. As the train carrying Lincoln’s body to Illinois for burial passed through the Northeast, the tracks were lined with mourners. However, none of the souvenirs in this case was made until at least a decade later.
  • Artwork
    George (1762–1830) was the eldest son of King George III and Queen Charlotte. He was regent for his father from 1811 to 1820, when he inherited the thrones of Great Britain, Ireland, and Hanover. As prince regent, he was a leader in the fashions of the day, and he was known for his expensive tastes and dissolute habits.
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    When Victoria became queen of the United Kingdom in 1837 upon the death of her uncle, William IV, she was only 18 years old and scarcely known to her subjects. She married her German cousin, Prince Albert, in 1840. The queen had a happy marriage and a large family, and she was devastated when the prince consort died in 1861. Victoria was declared empress of India in 1876, and she presided over a tremendous expansion of British power in the 19th century. Her golden jubilee (1887) and diamond jubilee (1897) were celebrated with much fanfare. By the time of her death in 1901, after 64 years on the throne, she was the only monarch most of her citizens had ever known.
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    Emperor Napoleon I (1769–1821) implemented many reforms of the French Revolution. Born on the island of Corsica, he attended military school in Paris, and he joined the French army in 1785, at the age of 16. He was promoted to brigadier general eight years later, and in 1795, he saved the revolutionary government by dispersing an insurgent mob in Paris. He took over the government in 1799 and was proclaimed emperor in 1804. One of the greatest military commanders of all time, Napoleon conquered most of Continental Europe, and he did much to modernize the nations he ruled. Nevertheless, he was unable to defeat Russia or to break the British control of the sea. Napoleon lost his final battle to the British and their allies at Waterloo in 1815. Six years later, he died in exile on St. Helena, an island in the South Atlantic Ocean. Napoleon was married first to Josephine de Beauharnais, an aristocratic widow, who was crowned empress in 1804. He then divorced her to marry Marie Louise, the daughter of the Austrian emperor. She bore him a son, who was proclaimed the king of Rome shortly after his birth.
  • Artwork
    Molded glass medallion with a bust of the Sun King Louis XIV in profile, facing right. The portrait is gilded on the reverse, and set into a gilded brass frame with fitted with a suspension loop. This is one of the largest French glass objects known from the 17th century. It celebrates the Sun King, Louis XIV, and it was created during his lifetime. The glass portrait is attributed to Bernard Perrot (1619–1709), the best-known French glassmaker of that period. He emigrated from Italy to Orléans, France, where he founded a glasshouse with the support of the duke of Orléans in 1668. Perrot made several significant technical discoveries. One of his most important contributions was a secret method of casting glass to produce relief figures and medals. This heavy medallion was cast in a mold of the royal effigy that was based on gold medals of the monarch dating to the 1670s. Seven medallions of Louis XIV, originating from three different molds, are known today. All of the other examples are in French collections.
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    Ancient glass sculpture is very rare. This is one of the earliest known glass portraits. It probably shows the head of Amenhotep II, who was ruler of Egypt about 60 years before Tutankhamen. The craft of glassmaking may have been introduced into Egypt during Amenhotep’s reign. The head was carefully sculpted, probably with the simplest of tools and considerable effort on the part of the craftsman. Cast in blue glass, the sculpture is now tan in color due to its long burial. Several royal portrait heads in glass are known. They were probably made as parts of composite figures designed to incorporate other materials, such as gold, ivory, and wood.
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    Mao (1893–1976) was the foremost Chinese Communist leader of the 20th century and the principal founder of the People’s Republic of China. He also helped to found the Chinese Communist Party in 1921, and he battled with Chiang Kai-shek for control of the country. After World War II, Mao’s forces defeated Chiang’s, and Mao became the ruler of China in 1949. He followed the U.S.S.R.’s model for constructing a socialist society, distributing land, building factories, and eliminating all opposition. This bust is the top of a lamp. It probably dates from the time of the Cultural Revolution, a period of social unrest and political persecution that was started by Chairman Mao in 1966 and lasted until his death. Mao established himself as a godlike cult figure during this movement, and all Chinese were encouraged to read the quotations of Chairman Mao.