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Mid-Georgian Portraits Catalogue

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790), Statesman; signer of the Declaration of Independence

‘Numberless are the prints & medals we have seen of you’ (Georgiana Shipley to Franklin, 1 May 1779; C. C. Sellers, Benjamin Franklin in Portraiture, 1962, p 267).

‘A variety of [clay medallions] have been made of different sizes; some to be set in the lids of snuffboxes, and some so small as to be worn in rings; and the numbers sold are incredible. These, with the pictures, busts and prints, (of which copies upon copies are spread everywhere) have made your father’s face as well known as that of the moon...’ (Franklin to his daughter, 3 June 1779; C. C. Sellers, Benjamin Franklin in Portraiture, 1962, pp 107-08).

A discriminating survey of Franklin’s formidable iconography was made by Sellers in 1962; the ensuing list is generally confined to the more important images.

London 1757-62
1757
Miniature by C. Dixon. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Mass. (C. C. Sellers, Benjamin Franklin in Portraiture, 1962, pl.2). Sent by Franklin to his wife in January 1758.

1759
Painting by Benjamin Wilson, half length, with lightning striking a church spire in the left background. White House, Washington (illus. W. Kloss et al., Art in the White House, 1992, p 55; C. C. Sellers, Benjamin Franklin in Portraiture, 1962, pls.2, 3). Wilson painted two replicas, the second c.1765, for Dr Thomas Bond, and a three-quarter length version was with Knoedler, New York, 1962; engraved J. McArdell 1761 (C. C. Sellers, Benjamin Franklin in Portraiture, 1962, pl.2); J. Chapman (oval) 1806; S. Freeman; W. Haines (half length) 1806. Like Franklin, Wilson had experimented with electricity and lightning conductors.

1762
Painting by Mason Chamberlin, three-quarter length seated, lightning to the left. Philadelphia Museum of Art (illus. C. C. Sellers, Benjamin Franklin in Portraiture, 1962, pl.4). Commissioned by Col. Philip Ludwell. Exhibited Society of Artists, London, 1763 (19). Engraved E. Fisher 1763; F. N. Martinet 1773; J. Lodge (bust length). A replica, since destroyed, painted for Franklin’s son 1764. Copy by George D. Leslie (Yale University Art Gallery); a 19th-century miniature copy (private collection, Philadelphia, probably from the Wellesley collection; C. C. Sellers, Benjamin Franklin in Portraiture, 1962, pp 226-27); an anon. medal of 1777, bust length wearing a cap (C. C. Sellers, Benjamin Franklin in Portraiture, 1962, pl.5), taken from Lodge’s engraving.

c.1762-72
Painting by Matthew Pratt, half length. American Scenic and Historic Preservation Society, Yonkers, NY (C. C. Sellers, Benjamin Franklin in Portraiture, 1962, pl.3). Derived from the Wilson half length of 1759.

In London 1766-75
1766
Wax profile by Isaac Gosset (C. C. Sellers, Benjamin Franklin in Portraiture, 1962, p 294). American Philosophical Society, Philadelphia, and Dr Philip Bate 1962 (C. C. Sellers, Benjamin Franklin in Portraiture, 1962 pl.9). Copied as a Wedgwood medallion and cameo (illus. R. Reilly and G. Savage, Wedgwood the Portrait Medallions, 1973, p 146, as c.1775 and after Patience Wright); by James Tassie (C. C. Sellers, Benjamin Franklin in Portraiture, 1962, pl.9) and for a medal formerly attributed to William Mossop (C. C. Sellers, Benjamin Franklin in Portraiture, 1962, pl.9).

Painting by David Martin, half-length seated at table, wearing glasses. White House, Washington (C. C. Sellers, Benjamin Franklin in Portraiture, 1962, pl.8; W. Kloss et al., Art in the White House, 1992, p 56). Exhibited Society of Artists, London, 1767 (99). Replica of 1767 in the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia, bequeathed by Franklin; another dated 1772 with Dr A. J. Alexander, Lexington Ky., in 1962. Copied by C. W. Peale (American Philosophical Society, Philadelphia) and reduced copies at Chevening and Brocklesby Park; a miniature enamel copy by Jeremiah Meyer in the Buccleuch collection (illus. D. Foskett, A Dictionary of British Miniature Painters, 1972, II, pl.232, no.582).

1770
Painting by Henry Bembridge, exhibited RA 1770, no.14 (C. C. Sellers, Benjamin Franklin in Portraiture, 1962, pp 190-92).

1772
Wax busts by Patience Wright, life size (C. C. Sellers, Benjamin Franklin in Portraiture, 1962, pp 426-29). In 1781 in Paris Wright also made a wax head of Franklin for Elkanah Watson, now destroyed.

Undated
Painting by Caleb Whitefoord, untraced; ‘acknowledged to bear a strong and striking likeness’ (D. Allen, Connoisseur, CXC, 1975, p 197). Whitefoord was Franklin’s neighbour in London and he also attended the Paris peace commission in 1782.

Paris 1776-85
From 1776 Franklin continually wore spectacles.
1777
Plaster bust by Claude Dejoux. Musée de la Coopération Franco-Américaine, Château de Blérancourt, Aisne (C. C. Sellers, Benjamin Franklin in Portraiture, 1962, pl.15), probably antedating the Caffiéri bust.

Plaster bust by L-P. Dufourny de Villiers. D. A. Bernstein, Sound Beach, Conn., in 1930 (C. C. Sellers, Benjamin Franklin in Portraiture, 1962, pl.15).

Medallions by J-B. Nini, see NPG 722.

Terracotta bust by J-J. Caffiéri, with long hair and neckcloth. Bibliothèque Mazarine, Paris (C. C. Sellers, Benjamin Franklin in Portraiture, 1962, pl.16). Casts include those with the Institut de France (1785); Royal Society of Arts, London (c.1777-90), and Bowdoin College, Brunswick, Maine, c.1785; four were bought by Franklin for his family, and others ordered for Sir Edward Newenham, Dublin (1783), William Carmichael (1785), and the Pennsylvania Hospital, Philadelphia.

Marble copies include, in Philadelphia: at the American Philosophical Society, and with the Home [formerly Franklin] Insurance Co.; in Washington: at the NPG (69.61) and the White House (illus. W. Kloss et al., Art in the White House, 1992, p 359); the Public Library, Boston MA; the Detroit Institute of Arts and in the Huntington Library, San Marino, Calif.

A number of derivative Sèvres medallions 1778-79 (C. C. Sellers, Benjamin Franklin in Portraiture, 1962, pls.12-14), frequently engraved; copied by James Tassie as an intaglio seal, and at Wedgwood (illus. R. Reilly and G. Savage, Wedgwood the Portrait Medallions, 1973, p 147).

Painting by J-B. Greuze, half length in fur-collared coat. Sotheby’s, New York, 30 January 1998, lot 120 (illus. Art Quarterly, XXVI, 1963, p 2). An oval replica with the American Philosophical Society, Philadelphia, and preliminary pastel study with the Dept. of State, Washington DC (C. C. Sellers, Benjamin Franklin in Portraiture, 1962, pl.22).

Pastel copies by Simon Petit (exhibited Salon de la Correspondence 1781, no.7) and J-S-L. Piot (musée Cantonal, Lausanne); copies in oil by G. P. A. Healy (Versailles) and Joseph Gaye (Sotheby’s, 20 March 1978, lot 51); miniature copies by Louis de Broux 1777 (French private collection) and by D. C. 1785 (Sotheby’s, 16 May 1957, lot 37, inscribed d'apres Duplessis).

Drawing by C-N. Cochin, half length with fur hat, engraved A. de Saint Aubin (illus. C. C. Sellers, Benjamin Franklin in Portraiture, 1962, pl.10). Copied by John Trumbull (Yale University Art Gallery). Enamel copy in the Victoria and Albert Museum (414.1810.1885; B. Rackham , Catalogue of the Schreiber Collection, Victoria and Albert Museum, III, Enamels and Glass, 1924, pl.45) from the engraving by G. Cooke. A medal by J. M. Lageman 1790 derived from the Cochin portrait.

1778-79
Wedgwood medallions, modelled by William Hackwood 1778, produced in several sizes (C. C. Sellers, Benjamin Franklin in Portraiture, 1962, pl.11); a variant, with longer hair at the neck, also attributed to Hackwood (illus. R. Reilly and G. Savage, Wedgwood the Portrait Medallions, 1973, p 145, as c.1775); another was produced in 1779, with a smaller variant (illus. R. Reilly and G. Savage, Wedgwood the Portrait Medallions, 1973, p 148).

Terracotta medallions by J-B. Nini from a drawing by Anna Vallayer-Coster, classical profiles to left (A. C. Baiardi & B. Sibille, eds., J B Nini, exhibition catalogue, Urbino, Blois, 2001, nos.95-98):
a) with longer hair, inscribed: eripuit coelo fulmen sceptrumque tirannis
b) with shorter hair, inscribed in French.

1778
Painting by J-S. Duplessis, oval, similar to NPG 327 but wearing a red coat with brown fur collar. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (32.100.132; C. C. Sellers, Benjamin Franklin in Portraiture, 1962, pl.24). Exhibited Salon 1779 (128). Engraved J. Chevillet 1778 (C. C. Sellers, Benjamin Franklin in Portraiture, 1962, pl.27); P. A. Tardieu 1795, and J. Thomson 1834. Duplessis exhibited another version at the Salon 1821 (128).

The many copies include those at Boston, Mass., in the Athenaeum (C. C. Sellers, Benjamin Franklin in Portraiture, 1962, pl.26) and Public Library; in Philadelphia, in the Independence Hall (C. C. Sellers, Benjamin Franklin in Portraiture, 1962, pl.26) and Mutual [formerly Franklin] Assurance; at New York, with the Historical Society and in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (95.21); others are in Yale University Library, the Fogg Art Museum (1943.235) and the Huntington Library, San Marino (pastel), and in France in the musées at Douai and Brest.

Miniature versions attributed to A. N. B. Graincourt (Philadelphia Museum of Art), and by Francis Lainé (exhibited RA 1786, no.283; see C. C. Sellers, Benjamin Franklin in Portraiture, 1962, pl.24).

Pastel by J-S. Duplessis, see NPG 327.

Terracotta bust by J-A. Houdon, wearing coat and waistcoat showing one button and two empty buttonholes. Louvre (C. C. Sellers, Benjamin Franklin in Portraiture, 1962, pl.18). Exhibited Salon 1779 (221). Franklin was given four casts; others include those in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Cambridge, Mass.; Schlossmuseum, Gotha; City Art Museum, Saint Louis, and Museum of Art, Toledo, Ohio.

Examples in marble in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, dated 1778 (72.6), the Philadelphia Museum of Art, dated 1779, and sold Sotheby’s, 5 December 1996, lot 78, dated 1778. There are bronze versions, for example, in the White House, Washington; the American Embassy, London, and in the Bodleian Library, Oxford (Mrs R. L. Poole, Catalogue of Portraits in the possession of the University, Colleges and City and County of Oxford, I, p 109).

A drawing by Houdon of Franklin was sold Sotheby’s, 23 March 1978, lot 179. A ‘death mask’, probably the life mask taken by Houdon in Paris in 1785, was allegedly sold for 10 francs in 1828 (illus. Harper’s Mag., XXIV, 1892, p 910; C. C. Sellers, Benjamin Franklin in Portraiture, 1962, pl.44).

The bust was also copied by John Flaxman c.1801, showing four buttons on waistcoat; plaster cast with the American Philosophical Society, Philadelphia (C. C. Sellers, Benjamin Franklin in Portraiture, 1962, pl.21) - apparently the source for the marble busts by Hiram Powers, see 1848-49 below.

Painting by J-F. de L’Hospital, half-length oval. University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia (C. C. Sellers, Benjamin Franklin in Portraiture, 1962, pl.22). Sellers recorded three copies.

c.1778
Painting attributed to C-P-A. Van Loo, half-length oval with fur-collared coat. American Philosophical Society, Philadelphia (C. C. Sellers, Benjamin Franklin in Portraiture, 1962, pl.23). Variant, without the fur collar, engraved P. M. Alix c.1790 (C. C. Sellers, Benjamin Franklin in Portraiture, 1962, pl.23); pastel copy by L. M. D. Guillaume with the Virginia Historical Society, Richmond.

Painting by Anne Rosalie Filleul, half length showing right hand, his glasses on a table. French private collection 1962 (C. C. Sellers, Benjamin Franklin in Portraiture, 1962, pl.23). Engraved L-J. Cathelin, exhibited Salon 1779 (263).

1779
Stone bust by P-F. Berruer, life size. Formerly with J. de Saint Pierre (illus. Gazette des Beaux-Arts, XVIII, 1928, p 169). Apparently derived from the bust by Dejoux, see 1777.

Drawing by C-J. Notté, exhibited Salon 1779: ‘portrait de M. le docteur Franklin, dessiné au crayon, avec des allégories’.

c.1780-81
Drawing by L-C. de Carmontelle, whole-length seated. Private collection, New York (C. C. Sellers, Benjamin Franklin in Portraiture, 1962, pl.28). Engraved by F. D. Née 1781. A closely related drawing by Gaspard Duché de Vancy was also engraved by Née.

1780
Painting by Stephen Elmer, half-length seated at table. Private collection, New York (C. C. Sellers, Benjamin Franklin in Portraiture, 1962, pl.13). Engraved T. Ryder 1782.

1782
Pastel by Joseph Ducreux, exhibited Salon 1782 (88).

Painting by Joseph Wright adapted from the Duplessis portrait of 1778, the features altered from the life. Yale University (C. C. Sellers, Benjamin Franklin in Portraiture, 1962, p.415, no.2; see M. H. Fabian, Joseph Wright, American Artist, exhibition catalogue, NPG Washington, 1985, pp 84-89, nos.9-13). Engraved W. Angus 1783. Replicas in Boston Public Library; Corcoran Art Gallery, Washington; Royal Society, London (presented by Caleb Whitefoord 1791); versions in the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia; from the Northbrook collection, sold Sotheby’s, 31 January 1951, lot 98; a miniature copy by J-T. Perrache sold Christie’s, 21 April 1998, lot 40 (cf. D. Foskett, A Dictionary of British Miniature Painters, 1972, II, pl.268, no.662).

Used by Benjamin West for his unfinished Signing of the Preliminary Treaty of Peace of 1782 in which Franklin appears with John Jay, John Adams, Henry Laurens and his own grandson William T. Franklin (Winterthur Museum; H. von Erffa & A. Staley, The Paintings of Benjamin West, 1986, no.105).

c.1782
Miniature by J-B. Weyler, examples on ivory and in enamel in the Musée du Louvre (33126 and 35727; C. C. Sellers, Benjamin Franklin in Portraiture, 1962, pl.34, and front.). Replicas in the Gilbert collection (illus. S. Coffin & B. Hofstetter, The Gilbert Collection, Portrait Miniatures 2000, no.60), Sotheby’s, 10 November 1986, lot 197, and Christie’s, Geneva, 15 May 1990, lot 251. Related enamel, signed D. C. 1785, formerly with Wildenstein, NY (C. C. Sellers, Benjamin Franklin in Portraiture, 1962, pl.34) and sold Sotheby's, 16 May 1957, lot 37 inscribed après Mr Weyller.

1783-84
Medals: by J-F. Bernier 1783, commissioned by the Masonic Lodge of the Neuf Soeurs, Paris, of which Franklin had been Venerable (C. C. Sellers, Benjamin Franklin in Portraiture, 1962, pp 193-94) and by Augustin Dupré 1784 (C. Saunier, Augustin Dupré, 1894, p 21, pl.IV).

1783
Pencil drawing inscribed M. Perier ce 4 janvier 1783, profile bust to right, wearing hat. Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore (C. C. Sellers, Benjamin Franklin in Portraiture, 1962, pl.13). A pastel copy, with spectacles added, in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

America 1785-90
1785
Painting by C. W. Peale, bust-length oval, wearing spectacles; unfinished (C. C. Sellers, Benjamin Franklin in Portraiture, 1962, pl.37). Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia. Engraved C. W. Peale 1787 (C. C. Sellers, Benjamin Franklin in Portraiture, 1962, pl.37). Unlocated miniature copies by William Mercer and Rembrandt Peale. Enlarged replica painted in 1789 with an elaborate quotation in view on table [‘In every stroke of lightning. I am of opinion that the stream of electric fluid ...’]; Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.

1787
Wooden bust by William Rush. Yale University Art Gallery (C. C. Sellers, Benjamin Franklin in Portraiture, 1962, pl.38). Rush also carved two ship’s figureheads of Franklin, one on the Franklin (C. C. Sellers, Benjamin Franklin in Portraiture, 1962, pp 358-59). A derivative bronze in the White House, Washington (illus. W. Kloss et al., Art in the White House, 1992, p 359).

c.1787
Painting by R. E. Pine, bust length, wearing spectacles. Franklin Institute, Philadelphia (C. C. Sellers, Benjamin Franklin in Portraiture, 1962, pl.37; R. G. Stewart, Robert Edge Pine, A British Portrait Painter in America 1784-88 1979, p 57).

Miniature by John Ramage. British Society for International Understanding, London (C. C. Sellers, Benjamin Franklin in Portraiture, 1962, pl.37).

c.1789
Silhouettes by Joseph Sansom (C. C. Sellers, Benjamin Franklin in Portraiture, 1962, pl.39) and A-A-C-F. Edouart (illus. E. F. Nevill Jackson, Silhouette, Notes and Dictionary, 1938, pl.54).

Posthumous
1790-91
Marble statue by Francesco Lazzarini, the head from the Caffiéri bust of 1777. Library Company, Philadelphia, taken down in 1879 and replaced with a copy by Lewis Iselin jr. 1959 (C. C. Sellers, Benjamin Franklin in Portraiture, 1962, pp 203-04).

1791
Bust by J-A. Houdon, exhibited Salon 1791 (484, among ‘onze morceaux de Sculpture Bustes tant en marbre qu’en terre cuite, Plâtre & Bronze’). Provisionally associated with the plaster in the Boston Athenaeum (H. H. Arnason, Houdon, 1975, fig.119, and see p 54); another example in the musée des Beaux-Arts, Angers.

A marble version of this type, bearing the date 1780, is in the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas MO (C. C. Sellers, Benjamin Franklin in Portraiture, 1962, pl.21), closely resembling a marble by Domenico Menconi of c.1862 (American Philosophical Society, Philadelphia; C. C. Sellers, Benjamin Franklin in Portraiture, 1962, pl.21).

1793
Terracotta statuette by F-M. Suzanne, standing by a broken column. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (C. C. Sellers, Benjamin Franklin in Portraiture, 1962, pl.29). Exhibited Salon 1793 (62). Copied in marble, bronze and other metals.

Nineteenth-century images include the marble bust by Hiram Powers 1848-49 (Yale University; illus. R. P. Wunder, Hiram Powers, 1991, II, p 151; C. C. Sellers, Benjamin Franklin in Portraiture, 1962, pl.21), of which there are many replicas; the statue by Powers of 1861-62 (US Capitol, Washington DC; illus. R. P. Wunder, Hiram Powers, 1991, II, pp 150-1), and another by John J. Boyle (University of Pennsylvania).



This extended catalogue entry is from the out-of-print National Portrait Gallery collection catalogue: John Ingamells, National Portrait Gallery: Mid-Georgian Portraits 1760-1790, National Portrait Gallery, 2004, and is as published then. For the most up-to-date details on individual Collection works, we recommend reading the information provided in the Search the Collection results on this website in parallel with this text.