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Monticello’s Parlor — the focal point of Jefferson’s autobiographical architectural masterpiece — was where Jefferson and his family entertained guests with music, games and conversation. The Parlor features the most elaborate architectural finishes in the house, with the Corinthian entablature’s frieze ornaments copied from the Roman temple of Jupiter Thunderer. Iconic elements of this impressive space also include identical composition ornaments above the Parlor’s doors, windows and fireplace.


Conservator Andy Compton recently completed a restoration of the frieze in the Hall. A similar project to restore the Parlor friezes will be undertaken soon. Photo by Gardiner Hallock.

Over the past two centuries, successive redecorating and restoration campaigns have buried these ornaments under 16 layers of paint. The paint layers obscure the ornaments’ fine details and their added weight stresses the fragile original mixture of chalk, hide glue, rosin and linseed oil from 1803.

A recent grant from the Richard and Caroline T.  Gwathmey Memorial Trust will allow conservator Andy Compton to remove the modern paints from the ornaments, conserve and replace missing and damaged pieces, and repaint the frieze boards with a color-matched paint that replicates the original Jefferson-era color. After the work is complete, the ornaments will not only be stable, but visitors can once again see them as Jefferson intended, helping fulfill his vision of a national architectural style based in part on principles and motifs derived from ancient Roman temples and public buildings.