The portrait depicts Franklin's head, shoulders, and body to the waist. He faces forward, looking slightly to the right of the viewer. His posture resembles the portrait by Anne Rosalie Filleul, and the engraving derived from it by Louis Jacques Cathelin.
The subject's gray hair is unpowdered, and falls loosely to his shoulders. He wears a white shirt and cravat, light brown waistcoat with self-buttons, and brown coat with gray fur trim. His clothing resembles, somewhat, the garb shown in a 1777 portrait by Greuze (Sellers pl. 22). An image of the painting before it was conserved was sent in 1972 to Franklin scholar Charles Coleman Sellers, who responded by referring to the Filleul portrait, noting the differences, and concluding "It would be tempting to believe this an original study, which [Filleul] later improved with the more attractive open collar. However, there is a large chance of its being simply an altered copy, perhaps from an engraving." CCS to owner, 12/19/1972. The painting was placed on deposit at the American Philosophical Society from 1982 to 1983. It was examined by American paintings scholar Edgar P. Richardson, who wrote, "I do not feel competent to offer an opinion on its author but the portions that seem entirely original are, in my judgment, of the fine quality of a French painting of the 1770's, such as might be expected of Anne Rosalie Filleul." (EPR to owner, 7/21/1982) A photograph of the reverse of the canvas, which may now be re-lined, shows two stamps: "G.ROWNEY & CO. / MANUFACTURERS / 51 RATHBONE PLACE / LONDON" and "From / T.J.ADAMS / [number unclear] WASHINGTON ST / BOSTON." Rowney is listed in Katlan's American Artists' Materials, Vol. II as Geo. Rowney at that address after 1837. After 1858, 51 Rathbone Place is no longer listed as the address. J.J. Adams is listed in Vol. I of Katlan as being at being at 72 Washington Street from 1840 to 1845, and at 99 Washington Street from 1846 to 1857. Norman Muller, writing in the Journal of the AIC (below), makes specific reference to stamops from Adams and Rowney appearing on canvases: "canvases sold by J.J. Adams often bear two stenciis: his own, which is headed by 'From'..., and the preparator, which in one instance was G. Rowney of London...." Given the greater resemblance of the numeral on the Adams stamp to 9, the canvas on which the painting was painted is more likely to have been sold by Adams in the years from 1846 to 1857. Rowney is the supplier of the canvas, and Adams is the merchandiser. The stretcher of the canvas bears the inscriptions 1912.15 and L.A.T. or L.A.F. It is likely that the numbers are accession or inventory records; but the collection remains undetermined at this time.
Research conducted by the owner was vital to the preparation of this entry, and it is acknowledged with thanks.