After Thomas Jefferson's death, Monticello, its contents, and the slaves who lived and worked on the plantation were all sold to cover the estate's crushing debt. One of the major sales occurred in 1827, but the paintings that had hung in the house were reserved for a separate sale. Believing that the paintings would draw higher sale prices in a large city, Ellen and Joseph Coolidge arranged for the paintings to be sold at the Boston Athenaeum in 1828. Only one of the paintings was purchased at the sale - no. 305, the portrait of Benjamin Franklin.
The following is a listing of paintings offered for sale at the Boston Athenaeum after Jefferson's death, as it appeared in the exhibition catalog.1
281 St. Peter weeping, - - - - C. Loti. 282 Jesus clothed in a Scarlet Robe, - - Pordenone. 283 A Magdalen penitent, - - - Spagnoletto. 284 Diogenes in his Tub, visited by Alexander, - (an original.) 285 Democritus and Heraclitus - the laughing and crying Philosophers, do. 286 Ascension of St. Paul, - - - Domenichino. 287 The daughter of Herodias, - - - Simon Vouet. 288 Diogenes, with his lantern, in search of an honest man, from Rubens. 289 Sir Walter Raleigh-, (Copy from an original of Holbein.) 290 Lord Bacon, (Copy from an original painting,) 291 A Crucifixion, - - - from Vandyke. 292 John Locke, (Copy from an original painting,) 293 General WASHINGTON, (an original,) Painted in 1784, Wright. 294 Daphne pursued by Apollo transformed into a laurel, (an original) 295 The Sacrifice of Jephtha's daughter, - - - Coypel. 296 General LA FAYETTE, (an original) Painted in 1789, 297 Ferdinand Cortez, --(Copied from an original in the Florence Gallery.) 298 Americus Vesputius, " " " " 299 Ferdinand Magellan, " " " " 300 Sir Issac Newton, -- Copy from an original painting. 301 Flagellation of our Saviour (on Wood,) Martin de Vos. 302 Christopher Columbus, copied from the original in the Florence Gallery. 303 A Market piece - Game and Vegetables, - - Snyders. 304 The Holy Family, - - - from Raphael. 305 Dr. FRANKLIN, (an original Painted for The Abbe Verri,) by Greuze. 306 "Ecce Homo" - - - from Guido. 307 St. John, - - - copy from L. da Vinci. 308 Descent from the Cross, on Copper, by Diepenbeck—from Vandyke. 309 " " " - (an original,) -- F. Floris. 310 Surrender of Ld, Cornwallis at Yorktown (original sketch,) J. Trumbull. 311 JOHN ADAMS, (an original,) Painted in 1785, - Brown. 312 Crucifixion, (an original) on Wood - - G. Seghers. 313 JAMES MADISON, (an original) - - Pyne. 314 THOS. JEFFERSON, an original in Profile, - Gilbert Stuart. 315 Parting of Hector and Andromache, an original sketch given by the Artist to Gen. Kosciusko, and by him to Mr. Jefferson, B. West. 316 Thomas Paine, - (an original) on Wood, - Trumbull. 317 St. Jerome, - - - - from Goltzius. 318 St. Joseph, the husband of Mary, the mother of Jesus, -
Ellen W. Randolph Coolidge to Martha Jefferson Randolph, May 28-29, 1828, Ellen Wayles Randolph Coolidge Correspondence, University of Virginia. Transcription available online in the Papers of Thomas Jefferson: Retirement Series Digital Library. In this letter, Ellen mentions many of the paintings by name and discusses the family's decision to sell the paintings in Boston.