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Norborne Berkeley (Medals & Medallions)
Artist/Maker: Isaac Gossett (1713-1799)
Created: c. 1770-1773
Dimensions: Field: 11.5 × 8.6 (4 1/2 × 3 3/8 in.); Image: 7.6 × 3.8 (3 × 1 1/2 in.)
Owner: Carter Family, Shirley Plantation
Historical Notes: Thomas Jefferson was a twenty-five-year-old lawyer living in Williamsburg when the royal governor Botetourt [Norborne Berkeley, 4th Baron Botetourt] arrived in that city in October 1768. During Botetourt's short but popular tenure, Jefferson was first elected to the Virginia House of Burgesses, and commissioned a Lieutenant of the Albemarle County militia. Years later, Jefferson recalled to Daniel Webster that Botetourt was "an honourable man" of great respectability and integrity.1 Jefferson was attending the general court in Williamsburg when Botetourt died on October 15, 1770, and likely attended the funeral services in Bruton Parish Church and at the chapel of the College of William and Mary, where the Governor was interred.2
Shortly after Botetourt's death, the Virginia General Assembly voted to erect a statue of him in Williamsburg. Botetourt's nephew in England lent the statue's sculptor a small wax profile of his uncle by the English artist Isaac Gossett to use as a model. The profile caught the eye of a merchant involved with the statue commission, and he sent four copies of the memento to his customers in Virginia. Soon the medallions were in high demand, and Jefferson no doubt purchased his in Williamsburg about 1773. Jefferson displayed Lord Botetourt's "medallion in wax" in the Tea Room at Monticello; its location today is unknown.3
- Text from Stein, Worlds, 240
- 1. Daniel Webster, "Notes of Mr. Jefferson's Conversation 1824 at Monticello," in The Papers of Daniel Webster, ed. Charles M. Wiltse and Harold D. Moser (Hanover, NH: University Press of New England, 1974), 1:374.
- 2. Malone, Jefferson, 1:128-41. Jefferson recorded Botetourt's death in his memorandum book on October 15, 1770. MB, 1:210.
- 3. Graham Hood, "Let Us Now Praise Famous Men—In Wax," Colonial Williamsburg (Summer 1990): 43-44; Catalogue.