Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from James Madison, 2 November 1799

From James Madison

Novr. 2. 1799

Dear Sir

The Bearer Mr. Polk is a Portrait Painter & a kinsman of Mr. Peale of Philada. He visits Monticello with a wish to be favored with a few hours of your sitting for his pencil. Having no acquaintance with you he asks the aid of a line towards obtaining one, and this will be presented to you for the purpose

With perfect sincerity I am yours

Js. Madison Jr

RC (IGK). Recorded in SJL as received 3 Nov. “by mr Polk.”

Orphaned at an early age, Charles Peale POLK had grown up in the household of his uncle, Charles Willson Peale, who also gave him his artistic training. Thirty-two years old at the time he called on TJ at Monticello, Polk traveled through parts of Maryland and Virginia in 1798 and 1799 seeking portrait commissions. During the latter year he made portraits of Madison’s parents, brother-in-law, sister, and nephew. According to a newspaper advertisement Polk placed on 18 Nov., he finished taking TJ’s likeness on the 5th (see illustration; Linda Crocker Simmons, Charles Peale Polk, 1776–1822: A Limner and his Likenesses [Washington, 1981], 6–7, 63–4; George C. Groce and David H. Wallace, The New-York Historical Society’s Dictionary of Artists in America, 1564–1860 [New Haven, 1957], 509–10).

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