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THOMAS JEFFERSON AN ITALIAN PRESIDENT

A multimedia exhibit intends to offer an interpretation of Thomas Jefferson’s relationship with Italy, which he saw under two different lights. On the one hand, he looked to classical architecture, which he considered eternal and universal, and which he came to know through Palladio’s plates and many other sources from his rich library. On the other hand, he looked to the ever-changing Italian landscape to inspire him in the creation of the rural America he dreamed of. At 6.30pm there will be the lecture The Italy of Thomas Jefferson. Over the course of his long and intense life, Thomas Jefferson spent a mere twenty days in Italy, between April 12 and May 2, 1787. It was a short trip which he chronicled in his journal and in numerous letters. Jefferson’s itinerary took him from the border with France to Milan by way of Turin and Genoa, but he was mostly interested in farmland, vineyards, rice fields, new machineries and production techniques. His journal contains a detailed account of this unique experience, but only a few annotations regarding the country’s art and architecture. After all, he did not include Rome in his tour, as it was perhaps a bit too far, nor did he stop in Verona, Venice or Vicenza, where he could have admired the magnificent works by Andrea Palladio, the Italian architect who then became a crucial source of inspiration for Jefferson’s architectural work. Nevertheless, he was largely influenced by Italian art and culture, especially architecture, so much so that for a long time historians have considered him a Palladian and a neoclassicist. And even though several different influences are detectable in Jefferson’s architecture, there is an indissoluble connection between his work and that of Andrea Palladio, the Italian architect and author of one of the most renowned treaties of all time, Quattro Libri Dell’Architettura. Jefferson himself once referred to it as his “bible”.

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Casa Italiana Zerilli Marimò - NYU
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