Washingtonian Wiener, and Other News


On the Shelf

Canova’s nude Washington.


  • Go on, take a peek at my search history. You’ll see a lot of this: “Nude presidents.” “Nude dead presidents.” “George Washington naked.” “Presidential peen.” “Free naked U.S. American founding fathers pixxx.” “Portrait of signing of Declaration of Independence where all signers are nude.” It has been a long road for me. I am not often delighted by what Google brings to me. But now Antonio Canova’s nineteenth-century sculpture of a totally nude George Washington—presidente numero uno, a hundred percent in the raw, not even any powdered wig—is coming to the Frick. It’s a big deal, a time to rejoice, for, as James Barron writes, we are not accustomed to exposed presidential flesh: “The first president had been dead for seventeen years by the time Canova went to work. Canova had done a nude Napoleon as the god Mars about 10 years earlier. But when it came to Washington, clothes made the man—and the statue—because his appearance mattered. ‘John Marshall, his first serious biographer, even entitled the chapter on Washington’s arrival in the world “The Birth of Mr. Washington,” ’ the historian Joseph J. Ellis wrote, ‘suggesting that he was born fully clothed and ready to assume the presidency.’ Nathaniel Hawthorne seemed to echo Marshall’s notion after posing a provocative question: ‘Did anybody ever see Washington naked?’ ‘It is inconceivable,’ Hawthorne wrote. ‘He had no nakedness, but, I imagine, was born with clothes on and his hair powdered, and made a stately bow on his first appearance in the world.’ ”
  • When Virginia and Leonard Woolf started the Hogarth Press, it was all fun and games, just like running an indie press should be. But then, as Rafia Zakaria writes, Virginia got bored: “Those first afternoons, when Leonard and Virginia sat covered in ink in the drawing room of Hogarth House, learning by trial and error just how hard it was to set type and center it on the page, were charmed ones. The experience was a simulacrum of the creative process: the beloved final product did not always reflect the pains of its production. But the labors of printing always delivered the satisfaction of a real and tangible object … If Leonard’s involvement was steady, Virginia’s was mercurial, waxing and waning through her depressive and creative spells. As early as March 1924, as they got ready to publish her novel Jacob’s Room, she declared in a letter that ‘publishing one’s own books is very nervous work.’ By October 1933, when Hogarth Press turned sixteen, Virginia declared herself tired of the ‘drudgery and sweating’ and the ‘altered travel plans’ that running the publisher required. She demanded that an ‘intelligent youth’ be found to take over its day-to-day operations.”

  • I’ve seen zero Fast and Furious movies. Mark Krotov has seen all eight of them, and is prepared to defend them (some of them, at least) as art: “Every film franchise is a testament to growth and conquest. In the case of the Marvel movies, that growth is exponential and expanding: movies beget more movies, more spinoffs, more series that emerge from spinoffs. What sets the Fast and the Furious series apart from franchises like this—at least for now—is its habit of folding all that hot-media-property energy back into itself, making the movies all the more strange and intense. Whereas Star Wars and Harry Potter build out more worlds, more histories, to populate with new and random protagonists, The Fast and the Furious is loyal to its core, producing something closer to America’s most beloved miniseries about cars and the increasingly superheroic men and women who love them.”