Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Jefferson to Jared Mansfield, 13 February 1821

To Jared Mansfield

Monticello Feb. 13. 21.

I am favored, Sir, with your letter of Jan. 26. and am duly sensible of the honor proposed of giving to my portrait a place among the benefactors of our nation, and of the establishment of Westpoint in particular. I have ever considered that establishment as of major importance to our country, and in whatever I could d[o] for it, I viewed myself as performing a duty only. this is certainly more than requited by the kind sentiments expressed in your letter. the real debt of the institution is to it’s able and zealous professors. mr Sully, I fear however, will consider the trouble of his journey, and the employment of his fine pencil, as illy bestowed on an Ottamy of 78. Voltaire when requested by a female friend to sit for his bust by the sculptor Pigalle, answered J’ai soixante seize ans; et M. Pigalle doit, dit-on, venir modeler mon visage. mais, Madame, il faudrait que j’eusse un visage. on n’en devinerait à peine la place. mes yeux sont enfoncés de trois pouces; mes joues sont des vieux parchemin mal collés sur des os qui ne tiennent à rien. le peu de dents que j’avais est parti.’ I will conclude however, with him, that what remains is at your service, & that of the pencil of mr Sully. I shall be at home till the middle of April, when I shall go for some time to an occasional and distant residence. within this term mr Sully will be pleased to consult his own convenience, in which the state of the roads will of course have great weight every day of it will be equal with me.

I pray you, Sir, to convey to the brethren of your institution and to accept for yourself also, the assurance of my high consideration and regard.

Th: Jefferson

PoC (DLC); on verso of reused address cover of John Barnes to TJ, 12 Oct. 1819; edge trimmed; at foot of text: “Jared Mansfield esq.”

Atomy (ottamy): “An emaciated or withered living body, a walking skeleton” (OED description begins James A. H. Murray, J. A. Simpson, E. S. C. Weiner, and others, eds., The Oxford English Dictionary, 2d ed., 1989, 20 vols. description ends ).

Voltaire wrote to his female friend Suzanne Necker on 21 May 1770 regarding the taking of his bust (Friedrich Melchior, baron von Grimm, Correspondance littéraire, philosophique et critique [Paris, 1812–14; Poor, Jefferson’s Library description begins Nathaniel P. Poor, Catalogue. President Jefferson’s Library, 1829 description ends , 14 (no. 918)], 1:163–4). The resulting full-length nude statue by Jean Baptiste Pigalle is now in the Louvre.

j’ai soixante seize ans … j’avais est parti: “I am seventy-six years old; and Mr. Pigalle, it is said, must come model my face. But, Madame, for that, I would need to have a face. One can hardly guess where it is. My eyes are sunk in three inches; my cheeks are like old parchment that has been badly pasted on bones that are attached to nothing. The few teeth I had are now gone.”

Index Entries

  • Jefferson, Thomas; Portraits; T. Sully’s paintings search
  • Mansfield, Jared; as professor at U.S. Military Academy search
  • Mansfield, Jared; letter to search
  • Necker, Suzanne Curchod de Nasse search
  • Pigalle, Jean Baptiste search
  • Poplar Forest (TJ’s Bedford Co. estate); TJ plans visits to search
  • Sully, Thomas; portraits of TJ by search
  • United States Military Academy (West Point, N.Y.); portraits at search
  • United States Military Academy (West Point, N.Y.); TJ on search
  • Voltaire (François Marie Arouet); J. B. Pigalle’s bust of search