This portrait sculpture showing the head and shoulders of Benjamin Franklin. The overall height of the bust is 9.0″ x 5″ wide x 4″ deep. Also available in a 6″ high size (3.5″ W x 6″ H x 3″ D) in white marble or bronze finish over polyresin.
This portrait sculpture of Benjamin Franklin is a reprodution of the original
marble bust which was crafted by the great French neoclassical sculptor
Houdon lived from 1741 to 1828, and was one of the
most celebrated sculptors of his day. He was commissioned to create sculptures
of a number of American leaders, including Benjamin Franklin, George Washington,
and Thomas Jefferson.
When Benjamin Franklin arrived in Paris in 1776, representing his now independent country, the fame of the septuagenarian as a scientist and statesman, philosopher and publicist, had spread throughout the Western World. Engravings, decorated plates, and miniatures in clay, porcelain, and plaster were nearly mass-produced. No wonder then that Jean-Antoine Houdon, whose works reads like an encyclopedia of the great names of the era, decided to create a portrait of Franklin, who was also his friend.
Historical Notes: Jefferson served
with Franklin, the senior statesman of the Continental
Congress, in Philadelphia
in 1775, calling him “the greatest man and ornament of the age and country in
which he lived.” He was a printer, author, inventor, statesman,
scientist, and diplomat, and these accomplishments could not have failed to
Franklin’s popularity in France increased French support for American
independence. His image was well known and appeared in engravings and even in
jewelry. Later, when Jefferson succeeded Franklin as minister to France in 1784,
“The succession to Doctor Franklin, at the court of
France, was an excellent school of humility. On being presented to any one as
the minister of America, the commonplace question used in such cases was ‘c’est
vous, Monsieur, que remplace le Docteur Franklin”? It is you, sir, who replace
Doctor Franklin?’ I generally answered, ‘no one can replace him, sir; I am only
This portrait of
Franklin is one of two completed by Houdon Franklin first sate for Houdon in
1778 and again in 1782, or later. In the earlier
portrait Franklin is clothed in simple Quaker dress; in the later work Franklin
is classically draped. The earlier bust, whose size and treatment matches the
other Houdon busts acquired by Jefferson, is probably the one that Jefferson
selected for Monticello.