Benjamin Franklin

David Martin

Scottish artist and mezzotint engraver David Martin never worked in America. He studied with Allan Ramsay, a prominent Scottish portraitist. Martin accompanied Ramsay to Italy where he studied classical, Renaissance, and Baroque art first hand. By 1765 Martin had opened his own studio in London. After moving to Edinburgh in 1784, he became the fashionable portraitist of the next decade. Martin painted Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) during one of Franklin’s trips to Europe. The Academy’s portrait is a copy of a quick sketch commissioned by Robert Alexander to commemorate Franklin’s success on his behalf in a property dispute. Franklin was so pleased by Martin’s first portrait that he commissioned this one. He sits at a cloth-covered table reading one of the disputed deeds. Books resting nearby refer to Franklin’s devotion to education, while the bust of Sir Isaac Newton underscores his interest in science.
Date of Birth
Oil on canvas
49 1/2 x 39 1/2 in. (125.8 x 100.4 cm.)
Accession #
Credit Line
Gift of Maria McKean Allen and Phebe Warren Downes through the bequest of their mother, Elizabeth Wharton McKean

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