PROPERTY FROM A DIRECT DESCENDANT OF THOMAS JEFFERSON (LOTS 167-176)
THE 'THOMAS JEFFERSON' CHINESE EXPORT DINNER SERVICE
This dinner service has long been strongly linked to Thomas Jefferson, including being published in Official White House China (both editions) by M.B. Klapthor, on display at Monticello, the U.S. State Department Diplomatic Reception Rooms and the White House (before at least 1908, when it was published in Century magazine). Modern scholarship has been unable to find records of the service in Jefferson's papers, and archaeological work at the slave quarters has not turned up a shard amongst the few early period discarded items found. However, Jefferson's 19th century descendants strongly believed in his ownership of the service, seeking to re-acquire it. At his death in 1807, Jefferson was more than $107,000 in debt; his grandson, Thomas Jefferson Randolph and grandaughter, Ellen Wayles Randolph organized an auction of his personal effects to raise funds. Ellen's grandson is the family member who re-acquired the service. Ellen was alive during much of this grandson's youth; when his son lent the service to public collections at the turn of the century he relayed the family's history with and knowledge of the service.
Another very intriguing aspect of the 'Jefferson' service is its close relationship to a service known to have been made for Christopher Gore (1758-1827), an early Governor of Massachusetts and U.S. Senator. In 1796, during Jefferson's Vice-Presidency, Gore was appointed by Washington to the Jay Commission, spending 8 years in London, where he moved in exalted social circles. Gore had married Rebecca Amory Payne in 1785, the daughter of a wealthy merchant and maritime insurer. Unlike so many of their peers, the Gores remained wealthy, building the neoclassical Gore Place in 1804-5 for about $24,000. It is highly plausible that Gore, or his wealthy and ambitious wife, ordered the two services (which differ only in their initial), one to be presented to Jefferson, perhaps to celebrate his 1800 election to the Presidency.
A cider jug from the service, with the addition of Jefferson's motto REBELLION TO TYRANTS IS OBEDIENCE TO GOD, is now in the collection of the Cincinnati Art Museum. It descended in the family of President John Adams until it was sold at Parke-Bernet Galleries, 12 January 1946, Adams-Quincy Heirlooms from the Heritage of Mary Adams Quincy (1846-1929).
Other pieces from the service and from the same descendants were sold Christie's, New York, 28 January 2013, lots 449 to 458 and Christie's, New York, 27 January 2014, lots 437 to 446. This is the last tranche of the family consignment.