UVa Library Press Releases
UPSTART AMERICANS ESTABLISH CREDENTIALS THROUGH "THE STYLE OF POWER" AT THE UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA LIBRARY
In 1783 the United States defeated the British in the Revolutionary War. The fighting was over but the young republic faced the challenge of establishing itself in the international arena as a player with staying power. To accomplish this, Americans did what they had always done: They bought goods and borrowed ideas from the Europeans, including the ones they had just beaten in a war. A new exhibit at the University of Virginia Library shows that although Americans had defeated Great Britain, they did not completely break away from the mother country. In establishing their new nation, America relied heavily on old-World European traditions.
“The Style of Power: Building a New Nation” is currently on display in the main exhibit gallery of the Mary and David Harrison Institute for American History, Literature and Culture and the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library at the University of Virginia. Exhibit hours are generally Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. Check library times at http://www.lib.virginia.edu/hours/ when planning to visit as hours change depending on the University class schedule. Admission is free.
Through art, architecture and the decorative arts, the young American nation sought to identify itself as the heir to Greek democracy and Roman republicanism. The exhibition features items drawn from the Library’s Special Collections, the University of Virginia Art Museum, Monticello and Mount Vernon. Visitors can see Thomas Jefferson’s personal copy of Ovid’s “Metamorphosis,” a classic required of any 18th century gentleman. Also on display is James Madison’s inventory of books, as well as an edition of Cicero printed in 1744 by Benjamin Franklin. The exhibit contains other items considered essential for a stylishly decorated home, including a silver coffee urn and Hepplewhite chair from Monticello and a fragment of a dining room frieze from Mt. Vernon. Other highlights include items showing influences on Jefferson’s design for the state capitol in Richmond.
“After the revolution, Americans enlisted the ethos of republican Rome as a political and cultural idea manifest in speech, dress, decorative arts and many other media. The temple-form architecture of the Virginia State Capitol is only one of the most notable survivals of this important American self-fashioning,” said Louis Nelson, U.Va. assistant professor of architectural history.
“The Style of Power: Building a New Nation” will be on display through September 2006.
To download this press release, a fact sheet and images for media use, visit the Library’s pressroom: http://www.lib.virginia.edu/press/