Benjamin Franklin: Portraits by Duplessis at The Met Fifth Ave
This exhibition features several works depicting the brilliant writer, inventor, politician, patriot, and statesman Benjamin Franklin (1706–1790), who has been the subject of hundreds of portraits. The most famous of these was painted by Joseph Siffred Duplessis (1725–1802), Louis XVI’s official portraitist, after Franklin arrived in Paris in 1776 to seek French support for the American war of independence. Portraying Franklin in a red coat with a fur collar and with an astonishingly elaborate frame decorated with his attributes, the oval painting was greatly admired and Duplessis exhibited it at the 1779 Paris Salon.
The painting, which has been in The Met collection for 85 years, is a focal point of the exhibition, along with the preliminary pastel portrait of Franklin, a life study by Duplessis. The pastel, which is rarely exhibited and is on loan from the New York Public Library, shows Franklin in the same pose as the painting but wearing a gray, collarless jacket and waistcoat. The image will be familiar to many: it is the likeness that is replicated on the one-hundred-dollar bill. The installation also explores the processes of image transfer and replication in the 18th century.