BENJAMIN FRANKLIN Portrait by David Martin Print
Benjamin Franklin Portrait by: David Martin in 1767.
In 1766, Franklin was in London, testifying eloquently before the House of Commons for the repeal of the Stamp Act. His public reputation, however, rested on his scientific achievements. His Experiments and Observations on Electricity (1751) had been often reprinted, and he had received numerous honorary degrees and awards for his important work. While in London, Franklin's portrait was commissioned by his friend, Edinburgh wine merchant Robert Alexander, from Alexander's protégé Scottish artist David Martin. Franklin obviously liked the portrait, which was exhibited to London audiences in the spring of 1767, for he commissioned this slightly modified replica and shipped it home to Philadelphia. Franklin wears a blue suit with elaborate gold braid and buttons, a far cry from the simple dress he affected at the French court in later years, and a wig of the type called "physical," usually worn by physicians and other men of learning. Martin has portrayed Franklin as a studious, and prosperous, man of science, seated amongst his books and papers, overlooked by a bust of Isaac Newton. Franklin supports his head with his right hand, in a pose traditionally associated with deep thought, but in this case the gesture, in which only the thumb actually supports his head, gives far more alertness to the pose than that of a weary scholar. Emphasis is placed on Franklin's intense concentration, contained within an appropriately poised and dignified body.
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