18th Century Prints, Engraving, Past/Present, Portraits, Prints

Past/Present: Benjamin Franklin Portraits

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From 1776 to 1785, Benjamin Franklin served as the first American ambassador to France. The French were very taken with Franklin and his New World “charm”; the enthused populace sustained a healthy market of printed and painted versions of his visage. Today, we share two small portraits of Franklin that circulated throughout France. This earlier print was one of the first available French images of Franklin. Publication of this print was first announced in the “Journal de Paris” of June 16, 1777. In this bust-length portrait, Franklin is depicted facing right, with Canadian fur-trapper hat, a simple cloth suit, and round spectacles.  Written accounts of Franklin’s time in Paris comment on Franklin’s plain manner of dressing, and the favorable impression it made on the French.

The second image, published circa 1780, is also a bust portrait of Benjamin Franklin, set in an oval frame. This is a variation of the Cochin portrait, altered to accord with the subject’s new ambassadorial dignity. Franklin is now depicted without spectacles, in a fur-lined satin dressing gown and a lace frilled shirt. The fur-trapper hat has been replaced with a more dignified and stylish cap, lightly trimmed with fur.

Image on Top:  Benjamin Franklin. Ne a Boston, dans la nouvelle Angleterre le 17 Janvier 1706. By Charles-Nicolas Cochin. Engraving, 1777. Engraved by Augustin de Saint Aubin. Image size 7 1/2 x 5 1/4″. LINK.

Image on Bottom: Benjamin Franklin. Ne a Boston dans la Nouvelle Angleterre, le 17 Janvier 1706. By Claude Louis Desrais. Engraving, c. 1780. Engraved by Pierre Adrien Le Beau. Image size 6 3/8 x 4 1/4″. LINK.

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18th Century Prints, 19th Century Prints, Copperplate, Engraving, Lithograph, Mezzotint, Portraits, Prints

Benjamin Franklin Portraits

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) is considered to be one of the greatest of all of our founding fathers. A highly intelligent man, over his lifetime he was an able scientist, a writer, printer, and publisher. He was one of the most successful diplomats that the United States ever had. During the Revolutionary War, he acted as American Minister to France, successfully gaining French support for the American cause. He was also the only person who signed all four of the key documents in American history: The Declaration of Independence; The Treaty of Alliance with France; The Treaty of Peace with Great Britain; and The Constitution of the United States.

Below are several portraits of Benjamin Franklin. Some artists chose to portray him as a scientist, some as a political figure, but all are stately and handsome portraits of this fine leader.

B. Franklin of Philadelphia.  L.L.D. F.R.S. By Benjamin Wilson. Mezzotint engraving, 1761. Engraved by James McArdell (1728-1765). Second state of two. The painter, Wilson, was also an experimenter with electricity. He met Franklin soon after his arrival in London and received Franklin commissions to paint family members. Here Franklin is depicted with a book titled "Electric Expts."  A static-electricity machine (the glass globe on a table) appears at right. To the rear a boldtof lightning flashes dtrikes down toward a distant city.

B. Franklin of Philadelphia. L.L.D. F.R.S. By Benjamin Wilson. Mezzotint engraving, 1761. Engraved by James McArdell (1728-1765). Second state of two. The painter, Wilson, was also an experimenter with electricity. He met Franklin soon after his arrival in London and received Franklin commissions to paint family members. Here Franklin is depicted with a book titled “Electric Expts.” A static-electricity machine (the glass globe on a table) appears at right. To the rear a bolt of lightning flashes strikes down toward a distant city. LINK.

Benjamin Franklin. From a painting by Greuze, at the Boston Athanaeum formerly owned by Jefferson. By Joseph-Silfrede Duplessis. Lith & Published by S.W. Chandler & Bro. 204 Washington St. Boston. Lithograph, 1854. The original painting for this print was originally owned by Thomas Jefferson. After Jefferson's death, it was sold to the Boston Athenaeum. Jefferson's originally attributed the painting to the artist Jean-Baptiste Greuze. It was later re-attributed to Joseph-Silfrede Duplessis. LINK.

Benjamin Franklin. By Joseph-Silfrede Duplessis. Lith & Published by S.W. Chandler & Bro. 204 Washington St. Boston. Lithograph, 1854. The original painting for this print was originally owned by Thomas Jefferson. After Jefferson’s death, it was sold to the Boston Athenaeum. Jefferson’s originally attributed the painting to the artist Jean-Baptiste Greuze. It was later re-attributed to Joseph-Silfrede Duplessis. LINK.

Benjamin Franklin L.L.D. Envoy from the American Congress to the French Court. From "An Impartial History of the War in America", London. Copper plate engraving, 1780. LINK.

Benjamin Franklin L.L.D. Envoy from the American Congress to the French Court. From “An Impartial History of the War in America”, London. Copper plate engraving, 1780. LINK.

Benjamin Franklin.   The Statesman and Philosopher. 152. Published by N. Currier, New York. Lithograph hand colored, 1847. No. 44 of the "Best 50" small-folio Currier and Ives lithographs. One of America's most important colonial figures, Franklin is depicted in white stock and full-trimmed coat. Around him is a decorative gilded frame surmounted with the American eagle. LINK.

Benjamin Franklin. The Statesman and Philosopher. 152. Published by N. Currier, New York. Lithograph hand colored, 1847. No. 44 of the “Best 50” small-folio Currier and Ives lithographs. One of America’s most important colonial figures, Franklin is depicted in white stock and full-trimmed coat. Around him is a decorative gilded frame surmounted with the American eagle. LINK.

D. Benjamin Franklin, et vita inter Americanos acta, et magnis electricitatis periculis clarus. Engraved by Johann Elias Haid. Mezzotint engraving, 1778. The scarce first version of Haid's mezzotint portrait of Benjamin Franklin. Haid made two portraits of Franklin using the same title and engraved pedestal surround. The this is the first and was based on the painting by Benjamin Wilson. The later mezzotint by Haid depicts Franklin in his fir hat. LINK.

D. Benjamin Franklin, et vita inter Americanos acta, et magnis electricitatis periculis clarus. Engraved by Johann Elias Haid. Mezzotint engraving, 1778. The scarce first version of Haid’s mezzotint portrait of Benjamin Franklin. Haid made two portraits of Franklin using the same title and engraved pedestal surround. The this is the first and was based on the painting by Benjamin Wilson. The later mezzotint by Haid depicts Franklin in his fur hat. LINK.

D. Benjamin Franklin, et vita inter Americanos acta, et magnis electricitatis periculis clarus. By Charles-Nicolas  Cochin.  Engraved by Johann Elias Haid. Mezzotint engraving, 1780.  A handsome and scarce portrait engraved by Haid (1739-1809). This mezzotint is the later of two oval portraits  engraved by Haid of Franklin. LINK.

D. Benjamin Franklin, et vita inter Americanos acta, et magnis electricitatis periculis clarus. By Charles-Nicolas Cochin. Engraved by Johann Elias Haid. Mezzotint engraving, 1780. A handsome and scarce portrait engraved by Haid (1739-1809). This mezzotint is the later of two oval portraits engraved by Haid of Franklin. LINK.

Benjamin Franklin. Printed by J. Neale. Mezzotint, c. 1790. LINK.

Benjamin Franklin. Printed by J. Neale. Mezzotint, c. 1790.A handsome portrait of Franklin, shown seated among books, papers, and a globe.  LINK.

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