(North Kingstown, Rhode Island, 1755 - 1828, Boston, Massachusetts)
Portrait of Thomas Jefferson
early 19th century
48 1/2 in. x 39 7/8 in. (123.19 cm x 101.28 cm)
North America, United States
Medium and Support
oil on canvas
Bequest of the Honorable James Bowdoin III
A man of the Enlightenment and the principal author of the American Declaration of Independence in 1776, Thomas Jefferson famously asserted the right to “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness” in response to a tyrannical British Empire. This principle, however, did not apply to the many individuals denied citizenship in the new nation: African Americans, Indigenous people, indentured servants, and women. Given the heavy reliance of Jefferson and other early framers of the American republic on the labor and expertise of enslaved individuals, not to mention deep personal connections with them, the irony of the disregard for individuals of non-European descent reflected in the founding documents of the United States is glaring. As the third president of the United States, Jefferson appointed James Bowdoin III as minister plenipotentiary to Spain, inspiring Bowdoin to commission from Gilbert Stuart, one of America’s leading artists, this portrait of Jefferson and that of his Secretary of State James Madison.
October 2010: This portrait of Thomas Jefferson, like its counterpart of James Madison, includes a French-style armchair.
Help us make our collections more accessible by providing keywords to describe this artwork. The BCMA uses the
Getty Art & Architecture Thesaurus to
provide consistent keywords. Enter a keyword in the field below and you will be prompted with a list of possible matching AAT preferred terms.