Figure group of Benjamin Franklin and Louis XVI signing the Treaty of Alliance in 1778, 1780-1785
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Photo courtesy of Winterthur Museum, Garden and Library

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The medium is white bisque or biscuit porcelain; that is, without a glazed coating or a second firing. The composition is around a raised, moulded rectangular base, with the top and sides partly covered by a draped, fringed cloth in the classical manner.

Mounted on the base is a table desk on a low, stepped platform. The desk, too, is covered with a cloth. At the desk stand the figures of Louis XVI and Franklin. The king is depicted with all of the signs of authority: standing on the top step, extending a document in his right hand, clad in armor and a robe or cloak that sweeps to the floor. Franklin is in the position of a suppliant: standing on a lower level, arms extended outward, dressed plainly. However, the suggested contrast is of gracious authority and grave thanks, not domination and servility.

The document held by the king is inscribed in gold capital letters on one page "Indépendence / de l'Amérique" and on the other "Liberté / des mers." It refers to the crucial treaty by which France, in granting freedom of the seas to the United States, recognized that the nation was no longer allied to France's enemy, England.

There are examples of this group recorded in the following collections: the Providence Athenaeum; the William Henry Huntington Collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art; the Winterthur Museum; the US Department of State; the Trumbull-Prime Collection at Princeton University; the Musée Carnavalet in Paris.

The example at Winterthur has its base marbleized in white, red and gray on all sides; every other example is entirely white. The example at Winterthur is labelled "Niderville" in raised letters on a strip of bisque porcelain attached to the top of the base behind the figure of the king.
Connection to Franklin
Contemporary representation of Franklin; belonged to a descendant Terms of Use Credits