Preservation | By Susan R. Stein

Monticello: Original colors and a broader historical context

March 1, 2013  |  We picture Monticello when we think of Thomas Jefferson. What does it mean to us today, and how has its meaning shifted over time? As Jefferson-statesman, farmer, scientist, bibliophile, politician, and architect-helped to forge a new country based on new ideals, his plantation in Virginia's gentle piedmont became his architectural crucible.

The Palladio-inspired Monticello has long occupied a monumental place in the American mind. It "shines alone in this secluded spot," the Marquis de Chastellux observed on his 1782 visit. We remember our first visits to the mountaintop, recall­ing the great clock powered by cannonball-like weights in the hall, the dramatic dome, the under­ground passage, and the white-columned porticos. Much has changed and is changing, all to more accurately reveal the Monticello known by Jefferson rather than the Monticello we carry in our minds, reinforced by the Jefferson nickels in our pockets.

Constant historical study and modern analytical restor…» More

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by Émile Jacques Ruhlmann (1879-1933), 1926. Macassar ebony, amaranth, and ivory. Metropolitan Museum of Art. By Cynthia Drayton

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