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Thomas Jefferson

Portrait Sculpture Bust


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This portrait bust of Thomas Jefferson is a faithful reproduction of Jean Antoine Houdon’s original sculpture done from life in Paris in 1789. Houdon’s portrait of Jefferson is the best-known and admired of all of the likenesses of Thomas Jefferson. It served as the model for the Indian Peace Medal in 1801 and the nickel in 1943. This likeness of Jefferson has been described as sensitive, intellectual, aristocratic and idealistic.

Jefferson considered Houdon to be the finest sculptor of their day. Houdon always worked from life. He began by modeling the sitter in red, soft, unfired clay. He then fashioned a mold on the clay maquette. From this mold, Houdon made a plaster cast. He then created additional plaster casts and marble busts based on this first casting. High quality atelier or studio plasters were then made as castings from molds of the marble model. The earliest and best Houdon plaster bust of Jefferson still bears its original terra-cotta patination. This patination was apparently a brick red paint that was applied to the surface of the plaster bust. The original is life sized and measures 28 1/2 inches high including the white marble socle or pedestal.

This Williamsburg Sculpture portrait bust of Jefferson was first sculpted by the artist in red, soft, unfired clay using an original Houdon plaster bust as a visual model. Next, a mothermold of the clay maquette was created using silicone rubber within a fiberglass shell. A first casting was made from this mold in bonded marble. This first marble casting was then re-sculpted and used as a model to produce a second or production mold. All open edition pieces are a casting product directly from this second mold. All numbered special edition pieces are from a third mold that was created from an artist refined model from the second mold. Meticulous attention to detail is used by the artist in preparation of the model for the third mold. All lines are sharpened and a great deal of time is spent on refining the details of the work. The special casting from the third mold is further hand finished by the artist before delivery.

Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States, preferred to be remembered instead as author of the Virginia Statue of Religious Freedom, author of the Declaration of Independence, and the founder of the University of Virginia.

Thomas Jefferson lived in Williamsburg, Virginia from 1760 to 1762 while attending William and Mary as an undergraduate student. Jefferson was a product of the Enlightenment. It was William Small, a professor at the College of William and Mary, who first introduced Jefferson to this new philosophy of the eighteenth century and its intellectual excitement. From the Enlightenment, Jefferson took his three greatest heroes, Bacon, Newton, and Locke. Small also introduced Jefferson to Governor Fauquier and George Wythe under whom he later studied law in Williamsburg from 1762 until 1767. During his time in Williamsburg, Jefferson regularly dined together with these three prominent individuals at the Governor’s mansion. Jefferson said long afterward, he heard "more good sense, more rational and philosophical conversations," than at any other time in his life. Jefferson came to know Wythe the longest of the three and to admire him the most. He might not have had professor Small’s contagious enthusiasm or the sophisticated charm of the Governor, but he was perhaps the wisest counselor and safest exemplar of the three.

Jefferson was an earnest student while in Williamsburg. One of the distinguishing characteristics of colonial Williamsburg was the seasonal occasion for friendly visiting and entertainment that it offered to residents of isolated plantations. Jefferson sometimes called Williamsburg "Devilsburg" because of the distractions to his studies and temptations it offered him. Jefferson was and remained a member of a close-knit social group while he resided in Williamsburg.

Jefferson continued to visit Williamsburg from 1767 until 1779 while he practiced law, served as Burgess, and later delegate to the Virginia legislature from Albemarle County.

From 1779 until 1780, Jefferson occupied the Governor’s Mansion in Williamsburg as the new state’s second governor. In 1780, the state capital was removed to Richmond.

Thomas Jefferson died on the fiftieth anniversary of the Declaration of Independence at his home, Monticello.


The Marquis de Lafayette

Benjamin Franklin

Founding Fathers

John Paul Jones

George Washington

Patrick Henry

18th Century French

18th Century Colonial Williamsburg

Civil War