Alexander Hamilton Bust (Sculpture)

Bust of Alexander Hamilton. Thomas Jefferson Foundation, Inc.Artist/Maker: Unknown after Giuseppe Ceracchi (1744-1801)

Created: 1794

Origin/Purchase: Philadelphia

Materials: marble

Dimensions: 61 x 33 x 24.1 (24 x 13 x 9 1/2 in.)

Location: Entrance Hall

Provenance: Thomas Jefferson; by purchase to James Barclay; by purchase to Uriah P. Levy; by descent to Jefferson Monroe Levy; by purchase to the Thomas Jefferson Foundation in 1923

Accession Number: 1923-12

Historical Notes: Jefferson placed two busts, a likeness of himself and his political opponent Alexander Hamilton, opposite one another in the Entrance Hall. Both were modeled by the Italian sculptor Giuseppe Ceracchi in Philadelphia in 1793 and 1794. One of Jefferson's grandchildren said:

"the eye settled with a deeper interest on busts of Jefferson and Hamilton, by Ceracchi, placed on massive pedestals on each side of the main entrance—"opposed in death as in life," as the surviving original sometimes remarked, with a pensive smile, as he observed the notice they attracted."[1]

Visitors to Monticello found the juxtaposition particularly amusing because the colossal-sized Jefferson bust on its green marble pedestal decorated with the signs of the zodiac and the twelve tribes of Israel towered above the life-sized Hamilton. Although both works were identified by Cornelia Jefferson Randolph on her undated plan of the first floor,[2] neither was mentioned by Jefferson in his Catalogue of Paintings.

Jefferson first came into contact with Ceracchi during his visit to the United States in 1791-92. Ceracchi proposed a monument to the American Revolution and appealed to Congress to finance the project. Jefferson favored the idea and tried to advance the project with the Federal District Commissioners, but it was turned down in Congress on May 7, 1792. When Ceracchi attempted to raise private funds for the memorial, Jefferson endorsed him to Robert Livingston, calling him "a very celebrated sculptor of Rome."[3]

- Text from Stein, Worlds, 219.

Further Sources

Footnotes

  • 1. Randall, Life, 3:336.
  • 2. Cornelia Jefferson Randolph, "Monticello. Two sketches of plan showing location of furnishings and works of art," Post 1826 July, Drawing N-563. Thomas Jefferson Papers, Special Collections, University of Virginia Library, Charlottesville, Va.
  • 3. Thomas Jefferson to Robert R. Livingston, Philadelphia, March 6, 1792, in PTJ, 23:229. Letterpress copy available online from the Library of Congress.

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