Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from John James Barralet, 31 December 1800

From John James Barralet

Philadelphia Decr 31st. 1800


I am sorry that it was not in my power to send to you the likeness of Mr Volney at the time promissd Mr Groombridge in mooving had mislayd it amongst other Drawings, only found it last week, took the first opportunity in forwarding it to You, with Respect give me leave to be

Your Most Humble and Obedient Servant

John James Barralet

RC (DLC); at foot of text: “Eleventh Street The Corner of philbert St”; endorsed by TJ as received 30 Jan. 1801 and so recorded in SJL.

Irish-born artist John James Barralet (ca. 1747–1815) studied painting in his native Dublin and worked there and in London as a portrait and landscape painter, book illustrator, and drawing master. By December 1794 he moved to Philadelphia, where he remained until his death. There he was acquainted with Robert Field, who painted a watercolor portrait of TJ, David Edwin, the engraver of two images of TJ, and George Isham Parkyns, for whom TJ wrote a letter of recommendation in 1800. Finding it difficult to earn a living in the United States by painting and drawing, Barralet devoted much of his attention to engraving, illustration, and making improvements to the engraving process (Henry A. Boorse, “Barralet’s ‘The Dunlap House, 1807,’ and Its Associations,” PMHB description begins Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, 1877– description ends , 99 [1975], 145–55; George C. Groce and David H. Wallace, The New-York Historical Society’s Dictionary of Artists in America, 1564–1860 [New Haven, 1957], 30–1; Henry Boylan, A Dictionary of Irish Biography, 3d ed. [Dublin, 1998], 12; Peale, Papers description begins Lillian B. Miller and others, eds., The Selected Papers of Charles Willson Peale and His Family, New Haven, 1983–2000, 5 vols. in 6 description ends , v. 2, pt. 1:103–11; Vol. 30:xxxix; Vol. 31:xli, xlv, 446–7).

TJ offered Barralet five guineas for the artist’s ink and black chalk drawing of Volney, which was perhaps the original of an engraving published in 1796. TJ hung the work among the portraits displayed on the walls of the parlor at Monticello (Susan R. Stein, The Worlds of Thomas Jefferson at Monticello [New York, 1993], 75–6; Gilbert Chinard, Volney et l’Amérique d’après des documents inédits et sa correspondance avec Jefferson, The Johns Hopkins Studies in Romance Literatures and Languages, 1 [Baltimore, 1923], frontispiece, 108; TJ to Barralet, 12 Mch. 1801; Barralet to TJ, 17 Mch.).

Originally of Kent, England, William Groombridge, a painter of portraits, landscapes, and miniatures who had also written a set of sonnets, emigrated to the United States about the same time as Barralet (Groce and Wallace, Dictionary of Artists, 277; DNB description begins Leslie Stephen and Sidney Lee, eds., Dictionary of National Biography, 2d ed., New York, 1908–09, 22 vols. description ends ).

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