spacer Benjamin Franklin Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790)
Author, statesman, scientist, diplomat

Benjamin Franklin represented the Revolutionary American government at the French court, America's ally in its war of independence. His reputation as a writer, scientist, and businessman was well established by the time of his arrival in France in December 1776, and he succeeded brilliantly in his mission. Jacques Donatien le Ray de Chaumont, a French admirer, commissioned Joseph Siffred Duplessis to paint a portrait of Franklin, which shows him in a red coat with a fur collar (now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art). Young Pierre Samuel du Pont commented on seeing it that Franklin's "large forehead suggests strength of mind and his robust neck the firmness of his character. Evenness of temper is in his eyes and on his lips the smile of an unshakeable serenity." The Gallery's painting is a version of Duplessis's initial portrait, with a different coat. Its early owner was Mme. Brillon de Jouy, Franklin's neighbor in Passy; their flirtatious relationship continued through Franklin's years in France.

Joseph Siffred Duplessis (1725-1802)
Oil on canvas, circa 1785
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
Gift of The Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation

Enlarged image

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