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Tour Paris with Thomas Jefferson

Updated on February 19, 2009

Follow in the Footsteps of Ambassador Thomas Jefferson when he lived in Paris from 1785-1789.

The following websites and descriptions will help you locate places in Paris related to Thomas Jefferson: Places he frequented from 1785-1789, places he loved, memorials to him, paintings, architecture and other artifacts he looked at while he was in Paris.
1. The statue of Jefferson (click here to see the statue) sponsored by athe Univ. of Virginia alumni in Paris, the Thomas Jefferson Foundation and Guy Wildenstein, an art collector and dealer based in New York and Paris. It is catty-corner from the Hôtel de Salm.
   The Hotel de Salm a little way east of the Palais-Bourbon, at 64 rue de Lille and across the rue Bellechasse from the Musée d’Orsay. A former aristocratic mansion, the Hotel de Salm is now the headquarters of the Légion d'Honneur. It is not open to the public, but you can look at it as Jefferson did while it was being constructed. Walk across the Seine using the Passerelle Solférino behind the Hotel de Salm to the terrace bordering the Tuileries and gaze across the river at the classical lines of this building. The building has been reconstructed but it is very close to the original.

Hotel de Salm, Headquarters of the French Society of the Legion of Honor, as it is today.
Hotel de Salm, Headquarters of the French Society of the Legion of Honor, as it is today.
Hotel de Salm under construction in 1786 as Jefferson would have seen it.
Hotel de Salm under construction in 1786 as Jefferson would have seen it.
Passarelle Solférino
Passarelle Solférino

 2. The Louvre Museum. In the Louvre an entire room is reserved for the giant paintings by Peter Paul Rubens depicting the life of Maria de Medici, by whom they were commissioned in the autumn of 1621. Another favorite painter of Jefferson's was Jaques Louis David. Jefferson was introduced to this painter in person by his friend John Trumbull (son of the Governor of Connecticut and for a while aide de camp to George Washington during the Revolution). Jefferson viewed David's Oath of the Hortii in the Louvre in 1786 (still hangs in the Louvre). Years later, Jefferson wrote to a friend "I do not feel an interest in any pencil but that of David." Of the 1787 Salon exhibition, Jefferson wrote to Trumbull: "The best thing is the Death of Socrates by David..."

Jacques Louis David's "The Death of Socrates."
Jacques Louis David's "The Death of Socrates."
Engravng of the Louvre Salon of 1787.
Engravng of the Louvre Salon of 1787.
Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Lebrun. Self-portrait. 1790.
Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Lebrun. Self-portrait. 1790.

3. The Jardin des Plantes. 57, rue Cuvier, Paris, France (5th arrondisement) Tel: +33 1 40 79 30 00. Located near the metro stations Quai de la Rapée. Jussieu, Censier-Daubenton or Gare d'Austerlitz.
Metro: Gare d'Austerlitz (Line 5, 10)     RER: Gare d'Austerlitz (Line C)    Bus: Line 24, 57, 61, 63, 67, 91
Nearby Sights and Attractions: The Latin Quarter  Mouffetard Neighborhood

This horticultural and zoological site originated with Guy de La Brosse, Louis XIII's physician, in 1626 as a medicinal herb garden. It was originally known as the Jardin du Roi. Jefferson's great friend the Comte de Buffon became the curator in 1739 and expanded the gardens greatly, adding a maze, the Labyrinth, which remains today. In 1792 the Royal Menagerie was moved to the gardens from Versailles. Jefferson and the Comte de Buffon had great mutual respect as students of natural history (Jefferson's Notes on The State of Virginia had made him famous in this department), but they greatly differed about the size and vigor of the flora and fauna of the New World, where Buffon had never set foot. It was to settle his argument that American fauna were quite vigorous that Jefferson had a friend ship him the bones of a moose (arrived in 1786), which stood ten feet tall at the shoulder and whose skeleton Jefferson had reconstructed in the foyer of the American Embassy.

Jardin des Plantes today
Jardin des Plantes today
An Artist's View of the Jardin des Plantes in 1830
An Artist's View of the Jardin des Plantes in 1830
18th Century Sketch of a Moose Calf
18th Century Sketch of a Moose Calf


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      Dale Anderson 

      5 years ago from The High Seas

      This was a really interesting idea for a hub. Well done.

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