Portrait of Benjamin Franklin: Benjamin Franklin Drawing Electricity from the Sky (West), ca. 1816
Photo by Graydon Wood
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Photo by Graydon Wood

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Franklin is depicted in the pose of an Olympian figure, in the act of drawing lightning from a stormy sky. He is shown seated on a rock in an undefined landscape wearing black contemporary dress, his neckcloth or cravat whipped by the wind, his person wrapped by a billowing red cloak. His head is turned upward, looking toward the heavens, his hair blowing freely. His right hand extends upward, toward a key that hangs from a taut kite string. A bright current appears to drop from the key to his hand. His left arm is down, providing visual balance; in his left hand is a scroll of paper. A pair of putti, below on the left of the scene, activate a complex electrical machine of the sort Franklin used to demonstrate the relationship between lightning and electricity. Behind him on the right, a standing putto wrapped in yellow controls the end of the kite string. He is watched by others, one of whom wears the headdress of an American Indian.
Connection to Franklin
Study for intended historical allegory
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