Portrait print of Benjamin Franklin (Filleul/NLGDLCADL), 1780
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Photo courtesy of Philadelphia Museum of Art

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The engraving depicts a bearded elder, in hooded robe, presenting to the viewer a portrait of Franklin in a formal oval frame. In the man's left hand is a lantern, and behind him is a large wooden tub, by which accessories he is identified as the Greek sage Diogenes, who lived in a tub, and wandered with a lantern aloft, searching for an honest man. The frame stands on a stone sill or block, carved with the words "STUPETE GENTES! REPERIT VIVUM DIOGENES." Diogenes supports the painting's frame against his body; his sandaled right foot rests on the sill, as though he were climbing up from behind the stone. His gesturing right hand rests on his right knee.

The portrait of Franklin is derived loosely from that of Anne Rosalie Filleul. It is a waist-length image showing Franklin with shoulder-length natural hair, dressed in an open-collared shirt, robe wrapped loosely around his body, and fur-collared gown or banyan over all. The symbolic details that fill the print include a cornucopia at Diogenes' foot, a broken yoke beneath the stone sill, a Liberty cap, a rolled map of North America beneath the claws of a bird (identified variously as an eagle or a phoenix).

Beneath the image is the caption “BENJAMIN FRANKLIN / Ministaire plénipotentiaire à la Cour de France pour la République / des Provinces unies de l’Amérique Septentrionale. / Né à Boston le 17 Janvier 1706. / A Paris chez Bligny Lancier du Roi, Md. D’Estampes, Peintre, Doreur et Vitrier, Cour du Manège aux Tuilleries.” Added at the right of this inscription is another: “Présenté à son Excellence / quelle à accepté le 14. / Juillet 1780. / Par son très Humble et très Obéissant / Serviteur BLIGNY.” Immediately below the image on the left is the inscription "N.L.G.D.L.C.A.D.L. del et sculp."

The pencil drawing from which the Franklin portrait engraving was made is in the collections of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. It is 4 1/8-inch high by 3 3/16-inch wide, cut to oval, and fixed to a counterproof of the engraving of the Diogenes in its earlier state, in which an image of Cardinal Fleury is within the oval frame. The artist of the pencil portrait is not known.

Multiple original examples of this print exist, including in the collections of the National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution (NPG.91.150), and the Musée de la Cooperation Franco-américaine, Blérancourt, France. One is also in the collections of a descendant of Franklin, with a family history of having belonged to Franklin. The engraved inscription below the image of the print to the effect that a copy had been presented to Franklin (placed there to encourage buyers), may have some foundation in the survival of that copy.

Other works copied after the Filleul painting include an engraving by J. Pelicier, 1782 (one owned by the Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1997-159-3) and another engraving by D.A.S. (owned by the National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, NPG.96.105)

Another copy is owned by the Philadelphia Museum of Art (1946-51-203), the gift of Mrs. John D. Rockefeller, Jr.

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