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Nicholas Philip Trist (Silhouette)
Artist/Maker: Charles Willson Peale
Created: c. 1820
Dimensions: 7 × 3.8 (2 3/4 × 1 1/2 in.)
Location: South Square Room
Provenance: Martha Jefferson Randolph; by descent to Charles, James, and John Eddy; by gift to the Thomas Jefferson Foundation in 1962
Accession Number: 1962-1-30
Historical Notes: Nicholas Trist and his brother, Hore Browse Trist, were born in Charlottesville but moved to New Orleans in 1803 to join their father, whom Thomas Jefferson had appointed port collector for the lower Mississippi River. The boys remained close to their grandmother in Charlottesville, Eliza House Trist, a close friend of Jefferson. At his invitation Nicholas and his brother "Browse" returned to Charlottesville in 1817, and spent nearly a year at Monticello where Nicholas began his six-year courtship of Jefferson's granddaughter, Virginia Randolph. After Nicholas had attended West Point, and studied law in Louisiana, the pair was married at Monticello in 1824. They lived in the North Pavilion at Monticello, and Nicholas became Jefferson's personal secretary, companion, and ultimately one of the executors of his estate.1
His silhouette and another of his brother were probably cut at Peale's Philadelphia Museum around 1820, when Hore Browse sent two of his profiles to his grandmother Eliza Trist, who wrote to Nicholas of the resemblance between the brothers:
Browse enclosed me two of his Profiles one for Mrs. Randolph [Martha Jefferson Randolph], she says that it is so excellent a likeness of you that they can scarsely discover a trace of him self and but for Peals Museum which is stamp'd on the paper they wou'd have thought it intended for you.2
Nicholas may have brought his silhouette with him to Monticello on his return there from West Point in 1821.
- Text from Stein, Worlds, 210
- 1. Gerald Morgan, Jr., "Nicholas Philip and Virginia Jefferson Randolph Trist," in Collected Papers to Commemorate Fifty Years of the Monticello Association of the Descendants of Thomas Jefferson, ed. George Green Shackelford (Princeton: Princeton University Press for the Monticello Association, 1965), 1:100-05.
- 2. Eliza Trist to Nicholas P. Trist, March 21, 1820, Nicholas P. Trist Papers, Library of Congress. Charles Coleman Sellers attributes silhouettes stamped "Peale's Museum" to Rubens Peale's New York museum, c. 1825-1837, but Mrs. Trist's letter predates that institution.