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Descent from the Cross. Thomas Jefferson Foundation, Inc. Photography by Edward Owen.

Artist/Maker: Frans Floris (1516-1570)

Materials: oil on wood

Dimensions: 44.1 × 34.9 (17 3/8 × 13 3/4 inches)

Location: Parlor

Provenance: Thomas Jefferson; by purchase to an unidentified buyer at the Harding Gallery sale in 1833; by gift or purchase to Sarah S. Schellens; by gift to the Thomas Jefferson Foundation in 1974, still bearing its label from the Harding sale on its back

Accession Number: 1974-13

Historical Notes: One of only three examples of northern Renaissance painting in Jefferson's collection was a Descent from the Cross by Frans Floris that Jefferson purchased before 1789. It is not known where he made this particular purchase. He could have acquired it in the Netherlands in the early spring of 1788 when he visited Rotterdam, The Hague, and Amsterdam — or elsewhere.

Frans Floris, who was active in Antwerp, visited Rome where he studied the works of Michelangelo and Tintoretto. Once Floris returned to Antwerp, he became known for transplanting Italian Mannerism to the north. One of his followers was Martin de Vos whom Jefferson also admired for he owned a copy of de Vos's Flagellation of Christ (unlocated). Jefferson described the painting in his Catalogue as:

[A] Descent from the cross on wood. A groupe of 5. figures. The body of Jesus is reclined on the ground, the head and shoulders supported in the lap of his mother, who with four others, women from Galilee, are weeping over him. The figures are whole lengths; the principal one 13.I. It is an original by Francis Floris.[1]

Undoubtedly because of its small size, the Descent from the Cross hung where it would be most visible on the lowest of three tiers in the Parlor at Monticello.

- Text from Stein, Worlds, 145


  1. ^ Jefferson's Catalogue of Paintings &c., Accession #2958-bThe Thomas Jefferson PapersSpecial Collections, University of Virginia Library. For a transcription of Jefferson's catalogue, see Seymour Howard, "Thomas Jefferson's Art Gallery for Monticello," The Art Bulletin 59, no. 4 (1977): 583-600.