Allegorical print with portrait of Benjamin Franklin: L'Amérique Indépendante, 1778-1779
Photo courtesy of National...
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Photo courtesy of National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

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Copies exist of this engraving by Jean Charles Le Vasseur after a drawing by Antoine Borel. The setting of the allegory is a forest, identified as the New World by the presence of a palm tree. The image revolves around a central figure of a stern-faced Franklin in classical garb crowned by a wreath of laurel. His right hand is placed protectively on the shoulder of an Indian maiden who crouches at the base of a statue of Liberty. In his left hand is a rod with which he gestures toward America as he watches while Courage, armed as a Roman soldier, brandishes a club over the fallen figures of Britain and Neptune, who stumble off the lower right corner. The figure of Prudence stands at Franklin's side. Minerva, armed and wielding a spear, flies above the group; Agriculture and Commerce watch from the lower left corner.

Franklin had agreed to sit for the portrait, but attempted to convince the artist to substitute for his image that of a figure representing the Congress, dressed as a Roman senator. Borel also asked for a copy of the Seal of the United States, to be placed as a central motif below the image, in the dedication. Franklin sent him two pieces of currency; Borel copied from the eight dollar continental the image of a harp surrounded by the chain of states, and the motto "Majora minoribus consonat" (The great is in harmony with the smaller).

Below the image on the left is the insription "A.Borel invenit et delineavit 1778." On the right is "J.C.LeVasseur Sculptor Regis et Majest. Imper. et Reg. Sculp." Centered is the title and dedication; "L'AMÉRIQUE INDÉPENDANTE / Dedié au Congrès des États unis de l'Amérique / par leur très humble et très obéissant Serviteur Borel / A Paris ches l'Auteur rue Boucherat au coin de la rue Xaintonge."

Connection to Franklin
Allegorical scene depicting Franklin; Franklin may have owned an example of this print Terms of Use Credits