Thomas Paine (Painting)

From Thomas Jefferson Encyclopedia

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Thomas Paine; Thomas Jefferson Foundation, Inc. Photography by Edward Owen.
Thomas Paine; Thomas Jefferson Foundation, Inc. Photography by Edward Owen.

Artist/Maker: John Trumbull (1756-1843)[1]

Created: 1788

Origin/Purchase: London

Materials: oil on wood

Dimensions: 10.2 x 8.9 (4 x 3 1/2 in.)

Location: Parlor

Provenance: Thomas Jefferson; provenance unknown until purchased by Mrs. Arthur M. Greenwood; by purchase to Thomas Jefferson Foundation in 1957.

Accession Number: 1957-28

Historical Notes: The miniature of Thomas Paine was a present for Thomas Jefferson from John Trumbull, who painted it in 1788 while Paine and Trumbull were both in London. Trumbull knew that Jefferson wanted a portrait of “the first public advocate of the American Revolution;” Jefferson had asked Trumbull the previous year if he could in turn ask Mather Brown, the American painter then in London for whom Jefferson and Adams sat in 1786, to draw Paine's picture. Paine’s popular pamphlet, Common Sense, had in many ways paved the way for the writing of the Declaration of Independence. When Jefferson received the miniature, he wrote Trumbull, “I am to thank you a thousand times for the portrait of Mr. Paine, which is a perfect likeness…”[2]

Paine, who was born in England, came to America in 1774 with a letter of introduction from Benjamin Franklin. He credited the Pennsylvania Magazine and wrote Common Sense, the famous political pamphlet that galvanized support for America's separation from England. Paine's popular work, written for all to understand, paved the way for the writing of the Declaration.

Footnote

  1. This article is based on Stein, Worlds, 124.
  2. Jefferson to John Trumbull, January 12, 1789, in PTJ, 14:440. Letterpress copy available from the Library of Congress.