Turgot Bust by Houdon. Thomas Jefferson Foundation, Inc.

Artist/Maker: copy after Jean-Antoine Houdon (1741-1828)

Created: copy after 1778 original

Origin/Purchase: France

Materials: plaster

Dimensions: 78.7 x 59.7 x 34.3 (31 x 23 1/2 x 13 1/2 in.)

Location: Entrance Hall

Provenance: The original plaster is unlocated. Presumably it was shipped to Boston for sale with other works of art at the Boston Athenaeum or Harding Gallery sales. The copy in Monticello's collection is modern.

Accession Number: 1945-5

Historical Notes: A terra cotta-patinated plaster bust of Anne-Robert-Jacques Turgot - economist, intellect, and political figure - was among the portraits by Houdon acquired by Jefferson upon his departure from France. It was displayed in the Entrance Hall. Turgot was a physiocrat, one of a school of political economists that believed that "society should be governed according to an inherent natural order, that the soil is the sole source of wealth and the only proper object of taxation, ..."[1] Turgot's discharge as controller-general of finances in 1776 by Louis XVI presaged bankruptcy in France.

In a letter to James Madison, Jefferson described Turgot as the head of "... the sect called the oeconomists ...."[2] When Jefferson learned that his son-in-law, Thomas Mann Randolph, Jr., planned to study the law, he advised, "There are some excellent books of Theory written by Turgot and the economists of France."[3]

- Text from Stein, Worlds, 217


  1. ^ Margaret Drabble, ed., The Oxford Companion to English Literature (New York: Oxford University Press, 1985), 762.
  2. ^ Jefferson to Madison, January 12, 1789, in PTJ, 14:437. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  3. ^ Jefferson to Thomas Mann Randolph, May 30, 1790, in PTJ, 16:449. Transcription available at Founders Online.