Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Sully to Thomas Jefferson, 6 April 1821

From Thomas Sully

Baltimore April 6th 1821.

Dear Sir

I have not yet succeeded in finding either of the works I mentioned to you. but in Philadelphia perhaps I may be more fortunate. I shall not be there until next July, but in the meantime will cause enquiry to be made.

The Architectural work is “Recueil et paralléle des Edifices de tout genre, anciens et moderns—Par J. N. L. Durand, à l’Ecole Polytechnique.”1

I trust by this time, the leather Cups have reached you.

I have taken the liberty of inclosing to your care for Miss Ellen Randolph, a work on Landscape painting, the which I hope may supply the place of a teacher to her & her Sister. I beg your permission to send from time to time such hints as will assist them to acquire a knowledge of the art; for which I think they have an admirable disposition.

With deep feelings of respect and regard Yr Obliged & Obt St

Thos Sully.

RC (DLC); endorsed by TJ as a letter of 5 Apr. received 12 Apr. 1821 and so recorded in SJL. RC (MoSHi: TJC-BC); address cover only; with PoC of TJ to Jonathan Thompson, 25 June 1821, on verso; addressed: “Thos Jefferson Esqr Montecello. Albemarle Virginia”; franked; postmarked.

On 30 Mar. 1821 TJ paid Sully $1 for leather cups (MB description begins James A. Bear Jr. and Lucia C. Stanton, eds., Jefferson’s Memorandum Books: Accounts, with Legal Records and Miscellany, 1767–1826, 1997, The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Second Series description ends , 2:1373). The sister was probably Cornelia J. Randolph, whose drawings of Poplar Forest furniture are reproduced above in Vol. 15.

In a 5 Apr. 1821 letter to her cousin Francis Eppes, Ellen W. Randolph (Coolidge) reviewed Sully’s recent portrait of TJ: the “day before the arrival of the Visiters, Sully, the great portrait painter, left us. He was commissioned by the West-Point Academy to take a likeness of Grandpapa, & has succeeded admirably. the upper part of the face is perfect, the eye is so full of life that you almost expect to see it roll. He is the first painter who has ever succeeded in catching the expression of Grandpapa’s countenance, and rendering that mixture of dignity & benevolence which prevails in it. If the copy is as good as the original (for a full length portrait is required, and Sully carried away with him simply the head & neck on a small bit of Canvas) it will probably be the best representation existing of one to whom future ages must—look back with gratitude and admiration. This portrait is defective about the mouth & chin, but the painter seems to be aware of the defect, and will endeavour to correct it.” She also sent Eppes “what at first sight you will take for a ragged scrap of paper, but if you will put it between the leaves of a sheet of paper and hold it to the light of a candle, or simply hold it up for the shadow to fall upon the wall, you will distinguish the dark and agitated countenance, the matted beard and hair of a man under the influence of some terrific passion. The original from which this was taken was cut with a pair of scissors, in the space of a moment, by Mr Sully, who appears to be as amiable a man as he is a great painter, and willing & able to contribute to the pleasures & amusements of any society in which he happens to be thrown. We think that the hand of the master is discernible even in this rude head, which has a powerful expression, for the time & materials with which it was executed; there is also a female head, pretty, & modest-looking as a lady should be” (RC in ViU: Eppes Papers).

1Manuscript: “Polytechinque.”

Index Entries

  • architecture; books on search
  • books; on architecture search
  • Coolidge, Ellen Wayles Randolph (TJ’s granddaughter); on T. Sully search
  • Coolidge, Ellen Wayles Randolph (TJ’s granddaughter); works sent to search
  • cups; leather search
  • Durand, Jean Nicholas Louis; Recueil et Parallèle des Édifices de Tout Genre Anciens et Modernes search
  • Eppes, Francis Wayles (TJ’s grandson); family of search
  • household articles; cups search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Books & Library; books recommended to search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Portraits; T. Sully’s paintings search
  • Monticello (TJ’s Albemarle Co. estate); Visitors to; Sully, Thomas search
  • painting; books on search
  • Randolph, Cornelia Jefferson (TJ’s granddaughter); drawings by search
  • Recueil et Parallèle des Édifices de Tout Genre Anciens et Modernes (J. N. L. Durand) search
  • Sully, Thomas; and books for TJ search
  • Sully, Thomas; and books for TJ’s family search
  • Sully, Thomas; and cups for TJ search
  • Sully, Thomas; letters from search
  • Sully, Thomas; portraits of TJ by search
  • Sully, Thomas; visits Monticello search
  • United States Military Academy (West Point, N.Y.); portraits at search