An upcoming exhibition on Thomas Jefferson’s architecture promises to be the soul of authenticity.
It’s been organized by the Chrysler Museum of Art in Norfolk, Va., in collaboration with the Palladio Museum in Vicenza, Italy, home to the Villa Rotonda.
The exhibition focuses on the ideas, formation and key monuments of the man who steered this republic’s architecture toward the neoclassical.
It also will confront the inherent conflict between Jefferson’s pursuit of contemporary ideals of liberty and democracy and his use of slave labor to construct his monuments.
It’s called, aptly enough, “Thomas Jefferson, Architect: Palladian Models, Democratic Principles, and the Conflict of Ideals.”
It pulls no punches. “We are interested in questions of architecture, race and slavery that he worked with in the Virginia economy,” says Erik Neil, director of the Chrysler Museum.
Included in the exhibition is a varnished walnut door created by African American artisan John Hemings, Jefferson’s slave. He was brother to Sally Hemings, and carpenter and cabinetmaker for much of Poplar Forest, Jefferson’s Bedford County retreat. Also included are a number of artifacts from the nailery at Mulberry Row, the slave quarters at Monticello.
There’s a rich trove of all things architectural. The Palladio Museum will provide 14 models, including 10 newly created models of Jefferson’s buildings and four models displaying the key architecture of Renaissance master Andrea Palladio (1508-1580).
“I talked director-to-director with them and said: ‘Wouldn’t you like to lend them?’” Neil says. “They want their collection better known, and there’s a longstanding relationship between Virginia, U. Va. and the Villa Rotonda.”
The exhibition will feature models of Monticello and Jefferson’s design for the U.S. president’s house (it was not selected) as well as representations of the Pantheon, highlighting its architectural influence on the University of Virginia’s Rotunda. The Chrysler will also display the only autographed drawing by Palladio in an American collection, as well as various editions of his treatise, The Four Books of Architecture.
“Jefferson had an attachment to Palladio early on,” he says. “So this exhibition offers a more nuanced understanding of Jefferson, showing more complexity to his work. And it makes it possible for people to appreciate architecture as one of the great art forms.”
The exhibition opens on Oct. 19 and runs through Jan. 19, 2020. Architects + Artisans is considering a daytrip from Raleigh. Interested? Email me at email@example.com
Lead Image: Anna Wesolowsla Photography
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Mather Brown (American, 1761−1831) Thomas Jefferson, 1786 Oil on canvas National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; bequest of Charles Francis Adams; Frame conserved with funds from the Smithsonian Women’s Committee NPG.99.66
Thomas Jefferson (American, 1743−1826) Monticello: ionic portico and dome, recto, probably 1778 Coolidge Collection of Thomas Jefferson Manuscripts, Massachusetts Historical Society N91;K62
Designed by Simone Baldissini and Mauro Zocchetta Constructed by Ivan Simonato Model of Jefferson’s design for the President’s House competition (scale 1:66), 2015 Wood, resin, and tempera Centro Internazionale di Studi di Architettura Andrea Palladio, Vicenza
Thomas Jefferson (American, 1743–1826) Proposed sketch for the President’s House, elevation, 1792 Pen and ink with gray wash Courtesy of the Maryland Historical Society 1976.88.6
Thomas Jefferson (American 1743–1826) Monticello: Observation tower, recto, ca. 1771 Pen and Ink with gray wash Coolidge Collection of Thomas Jefferson Manuscripts, Massachusetts Historical Society N66:K39
Nail-making materials excavated on Mulberry Row, Monticello, Charlottesville, Virginia, clockwise from top: nailrod, hammer head fragment, nails, hardy with nail inserted Courtesy of The Thomas Jefferson Foundation, Monticello ©Thomas Jefferson Foundation at Monticello
John Hemings (American, 1776−1833) Paneled Door for Jefferson’s Poplar Forest, 1809−1819 Varnished walnut Courtesy of Thomas Jefferson’s Poplar Forest
Gilbert Stuart (1755−1825) Thomas Jefferson (The Medallion Portrait), 1805 Grisaille, oil and egg mixture on blue laid paper on canvas Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Gift of Mrs. T. Jefferson Newbold and family, in memory of Thomas Jefferson Newbold, Class of 1910, 1960.156 Photo: Imaging Department © President and Fellows of Harvard College
Hubert Robert (French, 1733–1808) Landscape with a Temple, ca. 1765–1800 Oil on canvas Chrysler Museum of Art, gift of Walter P. Chrysler, Jr. 81.1
William Goodacre (English, 1803–1883) Capitol of Richmond, Virginia, 1830s Engraving and watercolor on paper Chrysler Museum of Art, gift of Mrs. Robert B. Tunstall 66.9.4
Édouard-Denis Baldus (French, born Prussia, 1813–1889) Maison Carée À Nîmes, 1853 Salted paper print Chrysler Museum of Art, museum purchase in memory of Alice R. and Sol B. Frank 98.9
John Trumbull (American, 1756−1843) The Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776, 1832 Oil on canvas Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, CT Purchased by Daniel Wadsworth and members of the Atheneum Committee, 1844.3 Photography credit: Allen Phillips/Wadsworth Atheneum
, Thomas Jefferson Architect