Portrait of Benjamin Franklin (Chamberlin), 1762
Photo by Graydon Wood, 1995
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Photo by Graydon Wood, 1995

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Chamberlin, the English portraitist, was a fellow member of the Royal Society in London. He depicts the Franklin known by his friends and compatriots in London. Franklin is seated in an armchair, writing at a desk. He looks up and over his right shoulder, his head turned away from his work as though he has been interrupted. He wears a gray bag wig, and a brown cloth suit with wrapped silk buttons. Simple white linen cuffs and stock are visible. (Throughout his life, Franklin seems to have returned to such a simplicity of dress: one in which he seems to have felt comfortable.)

At the left of the canvas hangs a set of the bells and wires that Franklin is known to have installed in his residences, so that their ringing would register an electrical connection. Visible out the window behind Franklin on the right is a landscape experiencing a violent thunderstorm. A lightning rod is attached to a nearby building, but an unprotected brick building and distant steeple are seen being demolished by lightning. With that bit of realism, the artist has indicated to the viewer that Franklin has noted the ringing of the bells, and turned his head away from his writing.

The painting is signed lower left in a single line of script: "M. Chamberlin. pinxt. 1762."

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