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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Related Publications

Sellers, Charles Coleman, Benjamin Franklin in Portraiture (New Haven: Yale University, 1962)

Sold in an exhibition of works from the artist's estate in 1799 for 30 guineas, it was owned by Prosper Guerry, then George P. Guerry.

It was acquired by the American collector William Henry Huntington at some time in the 19th century, and given by him to the Metropolitan Museum in 1885, with other paintings. The museum deaccessioned it in 1956.

At the time of Sellers' research it was with Edward Eberstadt and Sons. It was with Kennedy Galleries in the late 1960's, with a Florida gallery in 2006, and is now owned privately.

A 1782 engraving of the work exists by Thomas Ryder with the title "The Politician," though without identification of the subject. In 1815, a copy from that engraving was used as the frontispiece of an edition of The Life and Works of Benjamin Franklin. And the identification as Franklin was fortified in 1824 when Ryder's original plate was reissued with a new title: "The Politician. / [Dr. Benj: Franklin]."

Sellers acknowledges the "doubt and speculation" associated with the image, since the subject does not look at all like Franklin. His long account is worth reading carefully.

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