In the American Wing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, amid much larger and more famous paintings, hangs a small portrait of Thomas Jefferson with a most interesting history for any fan of Alexander Hamilton or the Hamilton musical. In 1786 and 1787, John Trumbull visited Thomas Jefferson in Paris. With Jefferson’s “assistance,” Trumbull began painting The Declaration of Independence on a small 21-inch by 31-inch canvas. This small painting became the basis for the huge 12-foot by 18-foot painting of the same name that hangs in the U.S. Capitol.
John Trumbull also used the original The Declaration of Independence as the source for three small portraits of Thomas Jefferson. One of the portraits was given to Maria Cosway, a married woman whose amorous correspondence with Jefferson has historians debating whether their relationship went beyond words. Another was given to Thomas Jefferson’s daughter. The other portrait of Jefferson painted by Trumbull was given to another one of Jefferson’s close friends, with whom he also wrote numerous flirtatious letters, Mrs. Angelica Church, known to many as the eldest of the Schuyler sisters. Luckily for fans of both Alexander Hamilton and Angelica Church, this portrait hangs in Gallery 753 of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.Fans of the real Alexander Hamilton who know a thing or two about his biography (that’s not mentioned in the musical) will also enjoy the provenance of this painting. When Angelica Church died in 1814, this painting was inherited by her daughter, Catherine. Catherine was married to Bertram Peter Cruger, who happened to be the son of Nicholas Cruger, the man who befriended and employed Hamilton back on St. Croix in the 1760s and 70s. Trumbull’s painting of Jefferson stayed in the Cruger family for three generations until Cornelia Cruger bequeathed it to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1923