Bust of Benjamin Franklin (1706 - 1790)
While minister from the American colonies to France from 1776 to 1785, Benjamin Franklin was a popular celebrity. The rage for his likeness resulted in images ranging from marble busts and paintings to prints and miniatures.
This bust was created by Jean-Antoine Houdon, the leading portrait sculptor of the eighteenth century. It is the most powerful and fully realized version of the best-known portrait of Franklin. Houdon's accomplishment is the more remarkable in that Franklin did not sit for the sculptor--the men did not meet formally until 1783. Presumably Houdon drew upon his experience of seeing Franklin at events such as meetings of the Masonic lodge to which they both belonged.