Portrait print of Benjamin Franklin (Vanloo/Alix), ca. 1790
Collection of Stuart E. Karu
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Collection of Stuart E. Karu

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The work is a copy after a portrait by Charles Philippe Amédée Van Loo. The image is of Franklin's head, shoulders and chest, enclosed within an oval. The presentation is three-quarter. On a dark ground, the subject is lighted from the left, with strong illumination on the right side of the head and body, and the left in virtual darkness. Though clearly drawn from the portrait that is reliably attributed to Van Loo (q.v.), there is a distinct difference in dress: rather than being clad in a fur-collared coat, Franklin wears a severe gray suit with large, flat, cloth-covered buttons. His loosely tied cravat or neck-cloth is taken from the painting, as is his shoulder-length gray hair and round spectacles. His expression is drawn more sharply than in the oil: he appears to be regarding the viewer with quizzical, amused attention. Along the underside of the oval frame are the lines "Vanloo pinxt. P.M. Alix Sculpt." Centered below the image is the script title "Francklin," and below that, the publication information: A Paris chez Marie François Drouhin, Editeur & Imprimeur-Libraire, Rue Christine, No.2, Imprimé chez lui par Becket." Originally part of a series of images of scientists/statesmen begun in 1790 and concluded in 1797, the Franklin was exhibited at the Salon of 1795 with portraits of Lavoisier, Montesquieu and Helvétius. The portrait of Claude Adrien Helvétius, dated 1793, is also after the portrait of him by Van Loo.

Multiple original examples exist, including in the collections of:
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution (NPG.70.65)
Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Musée de la Cooperation Franco-américaine, Blérancourt, France.

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