Miniature portrait of Louis XVI, 1784
American Philosophical...
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American Philosophical Society, Philadelphia

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The oval miniature portrait represents Louis XVI as a young man, with ruddy complexion and powdered hair. He is depicted wearing a royal blue robe with gold fleurs-de-lis. A white lace cravat shows at his throat. Around his shoulders hang two chains, one of which is the Order of the Golden Fleece.

The image is set in a gilt silver frame with a hanging loop at the center top. Housed separately is an oval frame or wreath composed of sockets for 46 diamonds (not present). The frame and miniature fit within a (later) hinged oval case of pressed paper or board, covered in red leather or sharkskin with a white silk lining. The case was examined by Elle Shushan, a scholar of miniatures, and attributed to Philadelphia, not France.

Some elements of the original setting are missing. A royal portrait of this rank would be expected to include a diamond crown above the image, which is often set with two diamonds. Also, Franklin's will describes the miniature as surrounded by 408 diamonds, as does a letter from Franklin's grandson, William Temple Franklin, to Jefferson, written a few years after Franklin's death. It is known that Sarah Franklin Bache removed some diamonds in order to finance a trip abroad for herself and her husband. Several diamonds with a history of having been part of the diamond wreath have been given to the American Philosophical Society, and Franklin descendants still own others. The single diamond at the APS is larger (approximately 1/4 inch in diameter) than would fit within the surviving wreath, arguing that it may have come from the crown.See Provenance for a discussion of the miniature's later history. Terms of Use Credits