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Close Reading Thomas Jefferson

This sculpture of Thomas Jefferson, by Rudolph Evans, stands in the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C. Look closely at the key elements of the statue to answer the questions below.

Jefferson Memorial in Washington D.C. with excerpts from the Declaration of Independence in background, by Rudulph Evans. Taken by Prisonblues with a Canon Powershot G5. Licensed under Creative Commons.

  1. Describe Jefferson’s posture.
  2. Look at his hands and feet. Describe the gestures indicated by the hands.
  3. What does the placement of his feet indicate about him?
  4. Describe his facial expression. Where is his gaze directed in relation to the statue itself? Note: in its placement on the Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C., the statue is facing in the direction of the White House. What might the sculptor have been indicating about Jefferson in sculpting his face in this way
  5. How is he dressed? Compare this to the clothing typically seen on portraits and statues of U.S. Founders. What does this communicate about Jefferson’s personality, temperament, and what he valued?
  6. Taken as a whole, what might the sculptor (Rudolph Evans) be conveying to the viewer about Jefferson’s character?
  7. How do these elements of the sculpture, taken as a whole, illustrate Jefferson’s humility?
  8. How can humility relate to the glory often given to leaders like Thomas Jefferson?
  9. How might humility have been an essential part of Jefferson’s leadership style?