Possible Italian Connection:
Who Was Lucy Ludwell Paradise?

Home of Lucy Ludwell Paradise in Williamsburg, Virginia, where a now-missing portrait of Thomas Jefferson was among the household inventory on 23 January 1812. (Courtesy of the Colonial Willamsburg Foundation.)

Lucy Ludwell Paradise (November 17511 – 24 April 18142) and her husband John were close friends of Thomas Jefferson, and of John and Abigail Adams. An inventory of Lucy's possessions in 1812 listed a large, unidentified portrait of Jefferson. The research team is investigating the possibility that the inventoried item was the 1785 Delapierre portrait, that it was acquired by the Paradise family via the Adams family, and that it made its way to Italy via one of Lucy's two Italian grandsons after Lucy's death.

The Adamses introduced Jefferson to the Paradise family during Jefferson's visit to London in the spring of 1786,3 and Jefferson corresponded frequently with both John and Lucy thereafter.4

John Paradise died in London on 12 December 1795,5 and Lucy returned to Williamsburg, Virginia, on 27 August 1805.6

On 23 January 1812—roughly two years before her death and just six days before she was legally declared insane and committed to an asylum7—a detailed inventory of Lucy's possessions in her Williamsburg home was made. The list included a large portrait of Thomas Jefferson, the location of which is now a mystery.8

Jefferson art scholar Alfred L. Bush noted that "…whether this portrait was part of the Paradise household in Europe…or was acquired after Lucy's return to the United States is unknown." 9

The Italian Connection

The picture listed in the 1812 inventory apparently was inherited by one of Lucy's two Italian grandsons, Philip Ignatius Barziza, who arrived in Virginia from Italy to take possession of Lucy's personal property in early 1815.10

Barziza amassed considerable debts while living in Williamsburg and, despite receiving legal assistance from Thomas Jefferson, twice declared bankruptcy11—likely relinquishing most of his personal possessions.

In the context of research on the 1785 Delapierre portrait, this missing Paradise picture has potential significance because of its Italian association. The Delapierre portrait is known to have been owned by the Italian art dealer Ugo Bardini in October 1927, who in turn probably inherited it from his father Stefano—himself a renowned Italian art dealer—upon Stefano's death in 1922.

If the Delapierre portrait was in fact a gift from Jefferson to the Adamses when Jefferson visited them in London in the spring of 1786, the Paradise family almost certainly would have seen it at that time because of their close relationship with both the Adams family and Jefferson in London. It follows that the Adamses might have given it to John and/or Lucy Paradise after the Adamses' relationship with Jefferson soured in the 1790s—knowing that the Paradises remained fond of Jefferson.12 13

The portrait logically would have been inherited by Barziza, whereupon it could have been sold in Italy—eventually finding its way to Ugo or Stefano Bardini.

The research team is working with experts at Polo Museale and Archivio Bardini in Florence, Italy, to try to establish when and where the Bardinis obtained the Delapierre portrait.

References and notes

[1] Archibald Bolling Shepperson, John Paradise and Lucy Ludwell of London and Williamsburg, The Dietz Press, Richmond, Virginia, 1942, pp. 17, 19.

[2] Ibid., p. 446.

[3] Ibid., p. 203. Thomas Jefferson first dined with John and Lucy Paradise at a dinner hosted by the Paradises at their Charles Street, London, residence on 30 March 1786.

[4] Ibid., pp. 209-244.

[5] Ibid., p. 431.

[6] Ibid., p. 433.

[7] Ibid., p. 446.  Lucy Ludwell Paradise was declared insane by a committee of three aldermen at the Eastern Lunatic Asylum in Williamsburg, Virginia—America's first hospital for the insane—on 29 January 1812. She died there on 24 April 1814.

[8] Manuscript, Virginia Historical Society, "An Inventory of the Negroes and Household furniture belonging to L. L. Paradise at her House in the City of Williamsburg taken by the Subscribers January 23d 1812." (See image below.)

Detail from household inventory of Lucy Ludwell Paradise, Williamsburg, Virginia (23 January 1812) listing picture of Thomas Jefferson; "do" = "ditto." (Courtesy of the Virginia Historical Society, www.vahistorical.org.)

[9] Alfred L. Bush, Jefferson and the Arts: An Extended View…The Life Portraits of Thomas Jefferson, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1976, p 100.

[10] Archibald Bolling Shepperson, John Paradise and Lucy Ludwell of London and Williamsburg, The Dietz Press, Richmond, Virginia, 1942, pp. 446-447.

[11] Ibid., p. 447.

[12] The reconciliation between Jefferson and John Adams didn't take place until early January 1812—just a few days before the picture of Jefferson was listed in the inventory of Lucy's possessions.

[13] In any event, the Adamses retained their portrait of Jefferson painted by Mather Brown. It descended in the Adams family and was bequeathed by Charles Francis Adams to the National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C., in 1999.