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Gallery Proposal for Monticello (ca. 1771)

Thomas Jefferson's proposed gallery for Monticello (ca. 1771) was a list of nineteen works of art (mainly sculpture) that he wanted to display in his mountaintop home.1 Art historian Seymour Howard contends that this list of desiderata "reveals a conservative, but comprehensive and discriminating eclecticism, which was encouraged by the partial isolation [Jefferson] believed salutary."2

Jefferson's gallery list focuses on works of classical and academic character. Though it is not certain what sparked Jefferson's first interest in the visual arts, it is likely that his humanistic education and aristocratic development had much to do with his taste. Jefferson was later influenced by his five-year stay in Paris (1784-1789) and by the advice of his friend Charles Bellini. Bellini helped to inform Jefferson about the commerce in art works before the latter made purchases for Monticello in Europe.

Although Jefferson envisioned a sculpture gallery at Monticello, the gallery was never realized – and none of the sculptures on his list were ever obtained.

A transcription of Jefferson's list is provided below. This transcription is based on Howard's essay, "Thomas Jefferson's Art Gallery for Monticello."3 Editorial comments appear in brackets and italics:

[1] Venus of Medicis. Florence
Apollo of Belvedere. Rome [crossed out] [horizontal line]
[2] Hercules Farnese. Rome [joined to 1 with a bracket]
[3] Apollo of Belvedere. Rome [interlineated]
[4] Antinous. Florence [joined to 3 with a bracket] [horizontal line]
[5] Dancing Fauns
[6] Messenger Pulling out a Thorn
[7] Roman slave whetting his knife
[8] The Gladiator at Montalto
[9] Myrmillo expiring. Rome
[10] The Gladiator reposing himself after the/engagement. (companion of the former.)
di terra cotta. [written as an addition in another ink vertically before the next three entries]
[11] Hercules and Antaeus. see Cheselden's anatomy.
[12] the two wrestlers
[13] the Rape of the Sabines (3 figures) [wide space]
[14] St Paul preaching at Athens
[15] St Ignatius at prayer
[16] Jephtha meeting his dautr.
[17] Sacrifice of Iphigenia.
[18] History of Seleucus giving his beloved wife Stra-/-tonice to his only son Seleucus who languished/for her. Florence
[19] Diana Venatrix (see Spence's Polymetis) [additions in another ink]
Bellini tells me that historical paintings on canvas 6.f by 12 f. will cost £15 sterl. if copd. by a good hand. [horizontal line]
Fresco painting of landscape or architecture cost 4[?] ½ the sq. foot. [horizontal line]
damask silk hangings cost 30/the sq. yard. [the page is struck through with a diagonal line]

Additional paintings admired by Jefferson, but not added to his list above, include the following: The Stoning of St. Stephen (Le Sueur), Marcus Curtius Leaping into the Gulf (Mola), Horatius Cocles Defending the Bridge (Mola), and Susanna and the Elders (Rubens). 

- Olivia Carver, 8/4/08


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