Image by cliff1066™
Thomas Jefferson, 1786, Oil on canvas by Mather Brown
As the new American republic emerged from its war with the mother country, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, collaborators in the formulation of the Declaration of Independence (although Jefferson wrote the final document), were brought together as trade negotiators in France, where their mutual respect turned into friendship. In the spring of 1786-when Jefferson was the American minister to France and Adams the American minister to England-Jefferson visited Adams, who suggested that he pose for the young Boston-born artist Mather Brown. An exchange of portraits between the two colleagues ensued. This painting, the earliest known likeness of Jefferson, remained in Adams’s family until given to the nation in 1999.
The background contains the classical figure of Freedom holding a staff topped by a cap, which had its origins in the conical cloth cap adopted by freed Roman slaves as the symbol of their liberty.