1786 Portrait of Jefferson Stolen From Polaroid Warehouse Safe

From Associated Press

A 1786 portrait of Thomas Jefferson on loan to the Polaroid Corp. to be photographed was reported stolen Friday from a warehouse safe.

The theft was discovered at the Polaroid Museum Replica division when an employee noticed the eighth-floor safe had been dismantled, apparently with a hammer and chisel, police said.

The 26-by-36-inch painting by Mather Brown shows Jefferson from the waist up, holding some papers, with a statue in the background. It was in a gold-colored frame.


The painting, owned by a descendant of John Adams, is believed to be worth between $1 million and $3 million, police spokesman Robert O’Toole said.

The safe did not have an alarm and no security guards patrolled the eighth floor of the waterfront warehouse at night, O’Toole said.

The Museum Replica division makes reproductions of valuable paintings for personal or commercial use, said Sam Yanes, a company spokesman. Nothing else was stolen, he said.

According to the book “Life Portraits of Thomas Jefferson,” the painting is owned by Charles Francis Adams of Dover, Mass. Telephone calls to Adams’ home in suburban Boston went unanswered.

The artist was a descendant of Cotton Mather, the clergyman and writer. Brown, who lived from 1761 to 1831, was a Boston native who moved to England in 1781, said Dorinda Evans, an art history professor at Emory University in Atlanta.

In 1786, Jefferson, then ambassador to France, visited London to meet with John Adams, Evans said. Jefferson paid Brown 10 pounds for the portrait.


Adams liked the painting so much that he asked Brown to paint a copy. Jefferson returned to Paris, leaving the work behind so Brown could copy it for Adams.

The original was apparently left by Jefferson in France. Its whereabouts is unknown.