Alexander I (Sculpture)

From Thomas Jefferson Encyclopedia

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Bust of Tsar Alexander I; Thomas Jefferson Foundation, Inc.
Bust of Tsar Alexander I; Thomas Jefferson Foundation, Inc.

Jefferson received a plaster copy of a bust of Tsar Alexander I[1] as a gift from the American consul general at St. Petersburg, Levett Harris, in 1804. The original bust was created by Fedot Shubin from a portrait.

1804 Aug. 7. Levett Harris, American Consul General at St. Petersburg, wrote Jefferson that he was presenting him with a bust of Tsar Alexander.

1806 Mch. 10. A Jefferson memorandum (MHi) notes the shipment to Monticello of a box containing a "Bust of Alexander." He noted it was to be placed in his cabinet on its arrival.

1806 Apr. 18. Jefferson wrote Harris that he had received the bust "Some time since" and thanked him. In accepting this gift he broke his usual rule of not accepting valuable gifts while in public office because his "particular esteem" for the Tsar placed "his image in my mind above the scope of law."

c.1815. Jefferson's Catalogue of Paintings at Monticello includes, in the Parlour, "66. Alexander of Russia. a bust in plaister."

1820s. Cornelia J. Randolph's plan of the first floor of Monticello indicates the position of the bust on the north side of the door to the west portico (Napoleon's bust was on the south side).

1956. Monticello acquired a modern plaster copy by Alexander Terentevich Savinsky of the marble bust made by Fedot Shubin at the time of Alexander's accession in 1801. The original portrait by Shubin is in the collection of the Voronezh Museums of Plastic Arts in Voronezh, Russia. Jefferson's plaster is unlocated.


  1. This article is based on Lucia Stanton, Monticello Research Report, 1999.