Portrait of Benjamin Franklin in an armchair (Carmontelle), 1780-1781
Photo courtesy of National...
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Photo courtesy of National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

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The artist has represented Franklin in profile, seated in an open cabriolet armchair, white with gilded trim, upholstered in blue. Franklin wears a dark suit, brown with overtones of plum or claret. His stockings are white; his shoes, black with simple buckles. Unpowdered gray-brown hair falls on his shoulders. A large, dark gray tricorne hat is poised on the edge of a table or table desk behind him. Projecting from beneath it is an open book; a paper titled the laws of Pennsylvania is unrolled beneath the hat.

The floor beneath his feet shows blocks of stone or squares of tile; a gray, paneled wall behind him ends in a vertical moulding like the framework of a doorway. However, he permits the wall to drop away behind Franklin's upper body in order to create a light background against which to frame his subject's head and chest. A blue sky is shown in the background, and ships in a harbor are suggested in the far distance.

On the reverse is an inscription in ink: "Eriput Coelo fulmen septum[sic] / que tirannis" (He seized lightning from the heavens and the scepter from tyrants). In pencil is a second, "On l'à vu desarmer les Tyrans et les Dieus" (We saw him disarm Tyrants and Gods).

An image can be found here.

Connection to Franklin
Life portrait taken in France
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