Carved Stone Heads (Sculpture)

Artist/Maker: Unknown[1]

Created: no date

Origin/Purchase: Anglo or African-American

Materials: probably sandstone

Dimensions: (1): 17.8 x 16.5 x 16.5 (7 x 6 1/2 x 6 1/2 in.); (2): 18.4 x 15.2 (7 1/4 x 6 in.)

Location: Entrance Hall

Provenance: (1): Thomas Jefferson; by purchase to Captain Stockton; acquired by Col. Wertenbaker of Charlottesville; by gift to the Valentine Museum prior to 1892; (2): Thomas Jefferson; by purchase to Captain Stockton; by descent to John N.C. Stockton; "picked up" by Dr. William C. Dabney; by gift to the Smithsonian Institution in 1875

Historical Notes: These two heads, which Jefferson believed were made by Native Americans, were part of his eclectic collection of art and artifacts in the Entrance Hall. When a visitor to Monticello wrote to Jefferson in 1820 asking the origin of "some curious, I believe hindoo figures in your collection of natural and artificial curiosities," Jefferson replied that the figures could not be "Hindoo," but "must be Indian of our own continent as I possess no others."[2]

Jefferson's grandson, Thomas Jefferson Randolph, remembered that one of these heads (now in the Smithsonian) sat on a stand in the Entrance Hall, and that it had been sent to his grandfather from "the West."[3] According to tradition, both heads were sold at the Dispersal Sale in 1827 to Captain Stockton of Albemarle County.

Jefferson displayed at least four "Indian" sculptures in the Entrance Hall. The most remarkable were a pair of bust-length statues of a man and woman, carved in hard stone (now unlocated). Morgan Brown, a lieutenant during the Revolutionary War, sent the statues to Jefferson from Palymra, Tennessee in 1799.

"They were found on a high bluff on the north side of Cumberland river standing side by side facing to the East, the tops of their heads about six inches under the surface of the earth; there were two large mounds a little to the West of them and a quantity of human bones under and near them."[4]

Jefferson displyed the statues on brackets in the Entrance Hall on either side of the busts of Voltaire and Turgot.[5] The busts may have remained at Monticello and been sold with the house to James Barclay in 1831.[6]

Footnotes

  1. This article is based on Stein, Worlds, 410.
  2. Louis Hue Girardin to Thomas Jefferson, August 12, 1820. Thomas Jefferson Papers, Massachusetts Historical Society; Jefferson to Louis Hue Girardin, August 17, 1820, ibid.
  3. As quoted by Dr. William C. Dabney to Dr. S.F. Baird, April 29, 1895, Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History.
  4. Morgan Brown to Jefferson, Palmyra, October 1, 1799. Thomas Jefferson Papers, Library of Congress. Recipient copy available online.
  5. Catalogue.
  6. A memoir of the Barclay family's time at Monticello notes that "a valuable and highly prized collection of heathen images was given Dr. Plummer of the Presbyterian Board of Missions, and were removed to the rooms of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions in Boston." Anna Mary Moon, "Sketches of the Moon and Barclay Families including the Harris, Moorman, Johnson, Appling Families," unpublished manuscript, [1939]. Efforts to locate objects from this collection have been fruitless.

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