Portrait of Benjamin Franklin (Elmer), 1780
Photo courtesy of Bruce...
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Photo courtesy of Bruce Gimelson, Dealer, Garrison, NY

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This painting presents a man engaged deeply in the activities of the mind. It depicts an elderly reader with sparse, shoulder-length hair, bending over a sheaf of paper which he examines intently. He is reading with the aid of pince-nez spectacles. He wears a deep green coat with a brown (sable?) fur collar. The white collar of his shirt is visible at his throat. His right hand holds what appears to be a newspaper, whose partial title "...ing Post" is visible, suggesting that it may be the London Evening Post. His left hand, fingers curled, rests on a copy of the pamphlet Observations / on the Nature of / Civil Liberty, / the Principles of / Government, / and the / Justice and Policy / of the War with America, published by Richard Price in London in 1776. Sellers (p. 278n.) reports that Joseph Priestley sent a copy of that pamphlet to his colleague, Franklin.

The background of the painting is an undifferentiated warm brown. The work is signed, lower right, "S.Elmer 1780."

Three engravings exist from this original: one, by Thomas Ryder in 1782, entitled "The Politician," another as the Frontispiece of a life of Franklin in 1824, and a third by Z. Sweet with the altered title "The Politician: Dr. Benj. Franklin."

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