Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to Joseph Sansom, 25 May 1803

To Joseph Sansom

Washington May 25. 1803.


Your favor of the 16th. was duly recieved and I thank you for the attention of the offer you are pleased to make in it. there has been a time of life when it would have been very tempting, but I have too little of it left now to merit gratifications expensive and short lived. objects of the kind too which you mention are a century ahead of the taste of our fellow citizens who, very happily in my opinion, have not yet extended their views of luxury beyond the directly useful. a society has been formed in New York for establishing a museum of the fine arts, & they have lately imported some casts, & have sent a first rate painter to Europe to procure other objects for it. those you mention are exactly within their plan & would very probably be taken by them. I do not know who is at the head of the institution: but mr E. Livingston is concerned in it. perhaps too, were you to drop me a line of the prices, I might in the intercourse of society find some one who would be glad of them, things of this sort being often the subject of conversation in society. I shall with pleasure be1 the channel of accomodating two persons, the one wishing2 to part with & the other to acquire such objects. Accept my best wishes & respects.

Th: Jefferson

PrC (DLC); at foot of text: “Mr. Joseph Sansom”; endorsed by TJ in ink on verso.

Aaron Burr recommended his beneficiary and painter, John Vanderlyn, to evaluate and purchase statues and replicas of the Old Masters for the Society of Fine Arts. Vanderlyn, who studied under Gilbert Stuart and had refined his artistic talents abroad, became its purchasing agent in Italy and France (ANB description begins John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography, New York and Oxford, 1999, 24 vols. description ends ).

Edward livingston was the recently elected president of the New-York Academy of the Fine Arts; see Livingston to TJ, 19 Jan.

1TJ here canceled “instrumental in being.”

2TJ first wrote “one who wishes” before altering the text to read as above.

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