Portrait of Benjamin Franklin (Pine), ca. 1787
Photo courtesy of The...
Click to Enlarge

Photo courtesy of The Franklin Institute, Inc.

  • Overview
  • Description
  • Further Information
This bust-length image of Franklin depicts him with his head turned to the right, to present a three-quarter face to the viewer. His hair is natural; he is dressed in a red coat, vest, and white cravat, and wears spectacles with round lenses. He is seated in a chair: the faint outline of a beaded, rounded crest rail is visible behind him.

The curatorial file at The Franklin Institute includes the following comment from Mr. Stewart of the National Gallery, written around 1974, apparently in response to a question about whether the Pine portrait could have been painted from life: "Franklin returned to America for the last time on 14 September 1785. This was at least a year after the Pines' arrival in Philadelphia. Charles Coleman Sellers in his book 'Benjamin Franklin in Portraiture' states that Pine's portrait of Franklin bears a marked resemblance to Charles Willson Peale's mezzotint of 1787 and is based on that 'with a free revision with the artist's personal recollection of Franklin's appearance.' Although there is no supporting documentation that Franklin sat to Pine it would seem unlikely that with the two living three city squares from each other for three years and given both their sociability, that such a sitting would not have taken place. The resemblance to the 1787 mezzotint reflects perhaps only the appearance of the venerable Franklin at that period in his life."

This painting is said by some to be the last portrait painted before Franklin's death (though it shares that possibility with Charles Willson Peale's portrait for the American Philosophical Society). It is not likely to have been painted at a formal sitting; but its subject could have been observed in public. Further, Peale's 1785 life portrait was available in the form of a mezzotint to be copied. This is also possibly the last portrait painted before the death of Pine, which occurred 18 months before Franklin's.

postmaster@benfranklin300.org Terms of Use Credits