The English/American painter Robert Edge Pine was born in London, into a family of artists. He was trained by his painter father, John. His brother, Simon, was a miniature painter who worked in Bath, England. Robert Edge Pine's earliest paintings were of actors and actresses. In 1784, he brought a series of paintings depicting scenes from Shakespeare's plays to America. These paintings formed an exhibit at the State House in Philadelphia, which may have been the earliest exhibition of paintings held in the United States. Pine had come to America out of sympathy for the American cause. He planned to do a series of paintings on the American Revolution while in America, and although he did not accomplish this goal (the only historical painting he did was "Congress Voting Independence"), he did paint some of the most influential Americans at that time, including Franklin.
Pine was married with two daughters, and when he died (of a stroke of apoplexy) his widow dispersed his paintings through a lottery. The Franklin portrait is not, however, listed in the proposal for the sale. Many of the paintings were bought by Daniel Bowen, an entrepreneur who showed them at his museum in New York and later at his Columbian Museum in Boston, where all were destroyed in the museum's 1815 fire.