He now became a nude and beardless youth, the type of the young athlete.
There is a sheet at the Louvre of much earlier date than the first idea or commission for this particular picture, containing some nude sketches for the arrangement of the subject; another later and farther advanced, but still probably anterior to the practical commission, at Venice, and a MS. sheet of great interest at the Victoria and Albert Museum, on which the painter has noted in writing the dramatic motives appropriate to the several disciples.
Amongst the finest of his classical pictures were - "Syracusan Bride leading Wild Beasts in Procession to the Temple of Diana" (1866), "Venus disrobing for the Bath" (1867), "Electra at the Tomb of Agamemnon," and "Helios and Rhodos" (1869), "Hercules wrestling with Death for the Body of Alcestis" (1871), "Clytemnestra" (1874), "The Daphnephoria" (1876), "Nausicaa" (1878), "An Idyll" (1881), two lovers under a spreading oak listening to the piping of a shepherd and gazing on the rich plain below; "Phryne" (1882), a nude figure standing in the sun; "Cymon and Iphigenia" (1884), "Captive Andromache" (1888), now in the Manchester Art Gallery; with the "Last Watch of Hero" (1887), "The Bath of Psyche" (1890), now in the Chantrey Bequest collection; "The Garden of the Hesperides" (1892), "Perseus and Andromeda" and "The Return of Persephone," now in the Leeds Gallery (1891); and "Clytie," his last work (1896).
A statue of a female nude figure found at Nineveh bears an inscription showing it to have been in the palace of Assur-bel-kala (1080 B.C.), who is therefore supposed to have resided in Nineveh.
Under Napoleon, of whom in 1806 he made a nude statue now at Dijon, Houdon received little employment; he was, however, commissioned to execute the colossal reliefs intended for the decoration of the column of the "Grand Army" at Boulogne (which ultimately found a different destination); he also produced a statue of Cicero for the senate, and various busts, amongst which may be cited those of Marshal Ney, of Josephine and of Napoleon himself, by whom Houdon was rewarded with the legion of honour.