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Bust of Alexander Hamilton

Bust of Alexander Hamilton View Interactive Version ]

Jefferson placed two busts, a likeness of himself and his political opponent Alexander Hamilton, opposite one another in the Entrance Hall. Both were modeled by the Italian sculptor Giuseppe Ceracchi in Philadelphia in 1793 and 1794. One of Jefferson's grandchildren said,

the eye settled with a deeper interest on busts of Jefferson and Hamilton, by Ceracchi, placed on massive pedestals on each side of the main entrance—"opposed in death as in life," as the surviving original sometimes remarked, with a pensive smile, as he observed the notice they attracted.1

Visitors to Monticello found the juxtaposition particularly amusing because the colossal-sized Jefferson bust on its green marble pedestal decorated with the signs of the zodiac and the twelve tribes of Israel towered above the life-sized Hamilton. Although both works were identified by Cornelia Jefferson Randolph on her undated plan of the first floor, neither was mentioned by Jefferson in his "Catalogue of Paintings."

Jefferson first came into contact with Ceracchi during his visit to the United States in 1791-92. Ceracchi proposed a monument to the American Revolution and appealed to Congress to finance the project. Jefferson favored the idea and tried to advance the project with the Federal District Commissioners, but it was turned down in Congress on May 7, 1792. When Ceracchi attempted to raise private funds for the memorial, Jefferson endorsed him to Robert Livingston, calling him "a very celebrated sculptor of Rome."2


Artist/Maker Unknown after Guiseppe Ceracchi
Created1794
Origin/PurchasePhiladelphia, PA
Object TypeArt and Sculpture
Materialsmarble
Dimensions24 x 13 x 9 1/2 in.
LocationEntrance Hall

Footnotes

  1. Henry Randall, The Life of Thomas Jefferson, 3:336.
  2. Thomas Jefferson to Robert R. Livingston, 6 March 1792,Julian Boyd, The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, 23:229.

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