Jefferson, the Enlightenment, and Monticello
Monticello, one of the earliest examples of the American classic revival, was designed by one of the most important American Enlightenment leaders, Thomas Jefferson. Construction began in 1769 and reconstruction occurred after Jefferson’s visits to Europe. Here, he engaged in expounding in his studies of European culture, horticulture, and French and Roman architecture, particularly the works of Andrea Palladio. Monticello exploits his knowledge of classical architecture and design, as well as the variety of influences that impacted Jefferson. Although Monticello was modified much of Jefferson’s life, his home exemplified the Enlightenment.
Jefferson demonstrates his knowledge of how a home and its natural landscape correspond with one another. On this particular selection of land, he strategically outlined the buildings, gardens, and groves. Monticello means “little mountain”, and was constructed on a mountain top so that Jefferson may “… look down into the workhouse of nature, to see her clouds, hail, snow, rain, thunder, all fabricated at our feet! And the glorious Sun, when rising as if out of a distant water, just gliding the tops of the mountains, and giving life to all nature!" The grounds of Monticello contain beautiful botanical displays that include the winding flower border which required systematic organization, and the oval flower beds which consisted of an assortment of flowers that had been grown in Europe that triggered his attention. He also created The Grove which developed into an arboretum of ornamental and useful plants. Jefferson also sought seeds that would be beneficial for Americans to cultivate. These agricultural studies reflected the Enlightenment ideal of “the importance of reason”, through scientific inquiry, benefits to mankind can be revealed.
Monticello’s architectural design illustrates that Jefferson accepted that architecture must be representative, yet concrete. Its...
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