Portrait of Benjamin Franklin (Wilson-White House), 1759
Photo courtesy of the White...
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Photo courtesy of the White House Historical Association (White House Collection)

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The painting is a formal presentation of Franklin, shown to the waist. He is positioned right-center of the canvas, his body facing left, with his head turned toward the viewer. He wears a gray-white wig and a brown suit with cloth buttons. In the middle left background, a small steeple is shown being struck by lightning descending from a cloud. The background is an undifferentiated very dark brown.

The dimensions and the composition of the portrait are similar to the "kit-cat" portraits by Sir Godfrey Kneller, which extended the length of the image to below the waist, and permitted the subject's hand or hands to be shown.

The work is signed and dated, lower right, "B.Wilson / 1759."

The emphasis on Franklin's electrical experimentation is a reference to the artist, as well. Wilson had performed experiments and published a treatise on the subject in 1746, which Franklin had read and praised in 1752.

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