Thomas Jefferson, Architect: Palladian Models, Democratic Principles, and the Conflict of Ideals

Yale Univ. 2019. 208p. ISBN 9780300246209. $45. ARCH
As a student at the College of William and Mary, Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826) exhibited an innate attraction to architecture and the work of the last great Renaissance architect, Andrea Palladio. He likely owned Giacomo Leoni’s translation of Palladio’s Four Books (1715–20), as well as James Gibbs’s 1732 rule book. Both inspired the self-taught designer to distill European sources into his signature integration of Palladio and Greco-Roman architecture. This handsome volume accompanies an exhibition at Virginia’s Chrysler Museum of Art and assembles a distinguished group of seven historians who take a fresh look at Jefferson’s architectural legacy, from early ideas for Monticello through his architectural exposure to European ideals during his ambassadorship to France. With essential new scholarship, this volume nicely augments Hugh Howard’s Thomas Jefferson: Architect. Noteworthy are lacerating essays by architectural historians Mabel O. Wilson on the Virginia capital’s use of slave labor for its construction, and Louis P. Nelson on the paradox of the University of Virginia’s “academical village” with its purported holistic educational environment alongside marginal accommodations for the sizable enslaved population on campus. A concluding section of full-color plates provides further examples of the material culture that surrounded this highly influential amateur architect.
VERDICT Essential for academic and design libraries.
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