The Marquis De Lafayette, by Joseph Boze, 1790 246
After the Marquis' return to France from America in January 1785, John Quincy Adams dined regularly at the home of Lafayette, who “entertained all the Americans every Monday.” Adams recorded with unusual detail one of his conversations with the Marquis in which the Frenchman severely criticized his peers. Adams concluded that he spoke “somewhat openly and freely for a french nobleman,” adding “perhaps he thought that among Americans, he could freely speak his mind without any danger.” On Adams' return trip to America several months later, he carried with him important letters and documents for various Americans from the Marquis, especially the whale oil proposals to aid New England merchants who were now without a market because of the war with Great Britain.
This portrait of Lafayette was commissioned by Thomas Jefferson after his return to the United States. In a letter to his close associate William Short on 6 April 1790, Jefferson wrote that “my pictures of American worthies will be absolutely incomplete till I get the M. de la fayette's.” Short selected as painter Joseph Boze, who
had done many portraits and miniatures of the royal family and other leading Paris personalities, and who Short later said had “taken by far the best likenesses of the Marquis.” When completed, it cost Jefferson 16 guineas, 3 1/2 more for the gilt frame, and 12 livres for packing for shipment to America. After Jefferson's death most of his paintings were sold at public sales in New York and Boston to help clear up his debt-laden estate. Two years later this painting was given to the Massachusetts Historical Society by the widow of John W. Davis, a federal district court clerk and son of John Davis, president of the Society, 1818–1835 (JQA, Diary, 4
, 9 April
, 9 May 1785
, below; Jefferson, Papers
, 16:318; 18:32, 356; Bénézit, Dict.... des peintres, sculpteurs, dessinateurs et graveurs
; Mabel M. Swan, The Athenaeum Gallery, 1827–1873,
Boston, 1940, p. 34, 85–89; Boston Daily Evening Transcript,
18 July 1833; MHS, Procs.
Courtesy of the Massachusetts Historical Society.