Parlor

From Thomas Jefferson Encyclopedia

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Dimensions: 27' 3" x 23' 8"; ceiling 18' 2"

Order: Corinthian

Source: Palladio, with frieze from the Temple of Jupiter Tonans (Thunderer), from Desgodetz, Les Édifices Antiques de Rome

Color: Unpainted plaster, with a Thomas Jefferson-designed parquet floor of cherry and beech

Purpose of Room: Games, music, reading, and a center of social activity. The room displayed much of Jefferson's art collection and was site to weddings, dances, and christenings

Architectural features: Parquet floor, automatic double-doors (doors.qt)

Furnishings of Note: Artwork, with paintings hung in tiers. Jefferson's inventory, presumably made in 1809, lists for this room: "Portraits - 24; Paintings - 17; Medals - 10; Busts - 2; Miscellaneous - 4". Among the portraits were represented key figures in Jefferson's thinking and in American and world history. Jefferson displayed portraits of the "three greatest men that have ever lived" -- John Locke, Isaac Newton, and Francis Bacon, as well as discoverers such as Columbus and Magellan, and American notables such as Washington, Franklin, and Madison. Today, the room contains a bust of Jefferson by renowned sculpture Jean-Antoine Houdon.

The room held many chairs of varying designs, including several acquired in France and upholstered in crimson damask. The room contained several other chairs and sofas of varying styles, purchased elsewhere or made in the Monticello joinery. One of Jefferson's favorites, the campeachy chair, is discussed in the "A Delightful Recreation" section in "Jefferson."

Several tables for cards or other amusements were in the room, as well as musical instruments such as a harpsichord and piantoforte. Two gilded pier mirrors enhanced the light in the room, and the curtains on the windows were made from Jefferson's sketches

Primary Source References

1803 August 3. "Pd. Hancock Allen for sawing pine & beach in full 64.66."[1]

1804 September 24. "Work to be done by Mr. Dinsmore...Parlour & Hall floor..."[2]

1805 June 26. (Jefferson to James Dinsmore). "I inclose yo two specimens of cherry, one done with boiled linseed oil, the other with the newspaper composition you referred to. I think the former the best; but am inclined to believe that dailly rubbing with wax will soon produce the same effect. I rathe rthink therefore of leaving the floor to time to give it's proper colour."[3]

1806 September 21. (Anna Maria Thornton). "The floor of the drawing room is laid with Beech and cherry tree woods in a very neat manner, it costs 200$ and the workman said he wou'd not do another like it for 400$."[4]

1830 February. (Anne Royall). "But the floor was a great curiosity, done in Mosaic, by Dinsemore and Nelson, it consisted of alternate, very bright brown wood, about ten inches, octagon shape, of a spruce of cherry color: this again was empaled with a narrow strip of white, I should think, the border is also octagon, and both of ivory smoothness--these are alternately checkered throughout."[5]

Footnotes

  1. MB, 2:1105.
  2. Building Notebook, N-147n.
  3. Goodspeed Catalogue, Boston: Goodspeed's Book Shop, 1948.
  4. Anna Maria Thornton Diary. Library of Congress. http://www.loc.gov/
  5. Peterson, Visitors, 117.