Diplomatic Reception Rooms

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The John Quincy Adams State Drawing RoomThe Benjamin Franklin State Dining Room
Inspired by ancient Greco-Roman ideals, the Thomas Jefferson State Reception Room is considered a masterpiece of neoclassical architecture.

A Setting for Diplomacy

Designed by the architect Edward Vason Jones in 1974, the Thomas Jefferson State Reception Room honors the well-known author of the Declaration of Independence. Jefferson was also minister to France, and America’s first secretary of state and third president. This grand and elegant space, although primarily a reception room, is often rearranged for meetings and official luncheons.

The room draws on architectural elements from Monticello, Jefferson’s home near Charlottesville, Virginia. “Architecture is my delight,” he said,1Quoted in Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello website, https://www.monticello.org/thomas-jefferson/a-day-in-the-life-of-jefferson/sanctum-sanctorum/architecture-is-my-delight (accessed March 14, 2020). and he not only designed Monticello but also contributed to the architecture of the White House and the U.S. Capitol Building. For him, the order, symmetry, and balance of ancient Greek and Roman structures were to be emulated. Jefferson believed these ideals should also guide the conduct of state affairs, and so this reception room evokes the civility and regard for human rights that Jefferson exemplified in his service to the nation.

Historical Furnishings

Classical symmetry and proportion give the Thomas Jefferson State Reception Room a sense of serenity. The archway and columns that frame the opening to the Benjamin Franklin State Dining Room are balanced on the opposite side of the room by a fireplace in white Carrera marble, similar to one Jefferson purchased in France about 1785. The mantel is supported by a pair of caryatids, female figures draped in classical style, and carved across the face of the mantel are classical figures representing the stages of life. Above the mantel is a mirror from Boston, and on either side are two paintings, one hung above the other, of historic scenes from mid-19th-century America, including Boston Harbor and the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington.

Elevation of Plaster Niche, Thomas Jefferson State Reception Room. Edward V. Jones & Associates.

Prominently displayed in a pedimented niche is a statue of Jefferson holding the Declaration of Independence, based on the 1833 original by the French sculptor David d’Angers. On either side of the statue are portraits of Winthrop Sargent, governor of the Mississippi Territory, and his wife Mary McIntosh Williams Sargent, painted by Gilbert Stuart. The furnishings in the room also include a rare set of elaborately carved chairs from the Chippendale period and a tall case clock from Newport, Rhode Island, made by the Townsend and Goddard School.

Architectural Tradition

Every aspect of the Thomas Jefferson Reception Room displays classical balance and harmonious proportions. Doors are pedimented, the floor is a parquet design, and the walls are topped with a plasterwork frieze of alternating ox skulls and rosettes that was inspired by the frieze in the parlor at Monticello. In the middle of the decorated plasterwork ceiling hangs a chandelier in the style of Robert Adam, from the late 18th century. Window treatments are crowned with ornaments inspired by the eagle at the center of the Great Seal of the United States. Over the entrance to the Benjamin Franklin State Dining Room is a Palladian window.

Circular niches over doorways hold busts similar to those displayed by Jefferson in his Monticello home; a rendering of the bracket by architect Edward Vason Jones.

Two circular niches over doorways complete the sense of balance. Here Edward Vason Jones placed busts of George Washington and John Paul Jones to represent American military forces on land and sea during the Revolution. These men, both fellow Virginians, were among Jefferson’s heroes, and he displayed their busts in the tearoom at Monticello.

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The Thomas Jefferson State Reception Room
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The Architect

Edward Vason Jones
Edward Vason Jones mastered the tradition of architectural classicism, and composed the vision to transform the Diplomatic Reception Rooms into extraordinary tableaus that reflect the height of early American fine and decorative arts.
The Work of Edward Vason Jones

Named in Honor of

Thomas Jefferson
This State Room celebrates the legacy of Thomas Jefferson, who gave a lifetime of service to the nation and whose influence on American principles of government has never ceased.
Read the Biography
Portrait of Thomas Jefferson
Portrait of Thomas Jefferson
Charles Willson Peale
1791
Oil on canvas

Objects in This Room

A terracotta bust of Benjamin Franklin

Terracotta Portrait Bust of Benjamin Franklin

Houdon, Jean Antoine
1778
ceramic; terracotta on marble base
A Glimpse of the Capitol at Washington

A Glimpse of the Capitol at Washington

MacLeod, William Douglas
ca. 1844
oil on canvas
Chippendale Figured Mahogany Desk and Bookcase

Chippendale Figured Mahogany Desk and Bookcase

Reynolds, James
ca. 1770-1780
wood; mahogany; southern yellow pine; Atlantic white cedar; yellow-poplar; spruce
Portrait of Henry Clay, 9th Secretary of State under President John Quincy Adams

Portrait of Henry Clay, 9th Secretary of State under President John Quincy Adams

Marchant, Edward Dalton
1838
oil on canvas
Chippendale Mahogany Desk and Bookcase

Chippendale Mahogany Desk and Bookcase

Unknown
ca. 1750-1770
wood; mahogany; yellow-poplar; cherry; southern yellow pine; eastern white pine; basswood
Portrait of Benjamin Franklin

Portrait of Benjamin Franklin

Greuze, Jean-Baptiste
1777
pastel on paper
Portrait of Governor Winthrop Sargent

Portrait of Governor Winthrop Sargent

Stuart, Gilbert
ca. 1799-1805
oil on canvas
Portrait of Mary McIntosh Williams Sargent

Portrait of Mary McIntosh Williams Sargent

Stuart, Gilbert
ca. 1799-1805
oil on canvas
Neoclassical Carved Carrara Fireplace Mantel

Neoclassical Carved Carrara Fireplace Mantel

Unknown
ca. 1810
stone; carrara marble
Chippendale Carved Walnut Dressing Table

Chippendale Carved Walnut Dressing Table

Elliott, John
ca. 1755-1765
wood; black walnut; Atlantic white cedar; yellow-poplar; southern yellow pine
View of Boston Harbor

View of Boston Harbor

Lane, Fitz Henry (Hugh)
1852
oil on canvas
Departure of Columbus for the New World [Embarkation of Columbus from the Harbor of Palos on his First Voyage]

Departure of Columbus for the New World [Embarkation of Columbus from the Harbor of Palos on his First Voyage]

Durand, Asher Brown
ca. 1842-1843
oil on canvas
Chinese Export Porcelain Armorial Berry Dish

Chinese Export Porcelain Armorial Berry Dish

Unknown
ca. 1785
ceramic; porcelain with underglaze blue and overglaze polychrome enamels
Portrait of Andrew Jackson

Portrait of Andrew Jackson

Kellogg, Miner Kilbourne
1840
oil on canvas
American Classical Ormolu and Mahogany Eddystone Lighthouse Clock

American Classical Ormolu and Mahogany Eddystone Lighthouse Clock

Willard, Simon
ca. 1822-1830
wood; mahogany; mahogany veneer; American chestnut; eastern white pine; gilt bronze; glass
Thomas Jefferson's Mahogany Writing Box

Thomas Jefferson's Mahogany Writing Box

Unknown
ca. 1777
wood; mahogany; European hard maple; European horse chestnut; basswood/ lime; brass fittings
Portrait of Thomas Jefferson, 1st Secretary of State under President George Washington

Portrait of Thomas Jefferson, 1st Secretary of State under President George Washington

Peale, Charles Willson
1791
oil on canvas
Chippendale Carved Mahogany Tall Case Clock

Chippendale Carved Mahogany Tall Case Clock

Claggett, William
ca. 1745-1750
wood; mahogany; yellow-poplar; eastern white pine; black walnut
Anti-Slavery Medallion, Am I Not A Man and A Brother

Anti-Slavery Medallion, Am I Not A Man and A Brother

Webber, Henry
ca. 1787
ceramic; jasperware porcelain