1590
1590
American School, 18th Century
BENJAMIN FRANKLIN
Estimate
20,00030,000
LOT SOLD. 175,000 USD
JUMP TO LOT
1590
American School, 18th Century
BENJAMIN FRANKLIN
Estimate
20,00030,000
LOT SOLD. 175,000 USD
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Important Americana

|
New York

American School, 18th Century
BENJAMIN FRANKLIN
Executed circa 1785-1795, probably in Philadelphia. 
painted pine fitted with iron ring on reverse
Height 35 in. by Width 21 in. by Depth 14 1/2 in.
Read Condition Report Read Condition Report

Provenance

David Stockwell, Wilmington, Delaware;
Delaware Historical Society, Wilmington, Delaware;
Private Collection.

Literature

Tom Armstrong, Wayne Craven, and Norman Feder, 200 Years of American Sculpture: Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (New York: Whitney Museum of American Art, 1976), fig. 37, p. 32-33;
Linda Bantel, William Rush: American Sculptor; Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, 1982 (Philadelphia, PA: Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, 1982), fig. 122, p. 177-178.

Catalogue Note

This remarkable wooden bust stands as one of the best eighteenth century sculptures of Benjamin Franklin known.  Bought by David Stockwell in the 1930’s from a local Philadelphia dealer, the bust’s earliest history is unfortunately not certain. A surface analysis was performed on the bust in 1997 by the Museum of Fine Arts Boston and they discovered 17 different layers of paint and varnish including evidence for five different gilding campaigns.1

Keith Arbour has researched various busts of Franklin used as architectural elements in the late eighteenth and early 19th centuries.2 Franklin’s bust was a popular architectural element used over shop doors, such as a bust for Isaac Beers’s New Haven bookstore and publishing house in the collection of the Yale Art Gallery (1804.4).3 He hypothesized that one possible original location for this bust was the southeast door of the House Chamber in Independence Hall that was mentioned by Henry Wansey in 1794.4 The southeast door was the main entrance to the House Chamber in 1793, but unfortunately the portico and the door were demolished in 1812.5

In 1976, Wayne Craven published the bust as attributed to William Rush in his book 200 Years of American Sculpture. This has subsequently been refuted by Linda Bantel in her 1982 monograph on Rush. Arbour noted that this bust appears closely related to Giuseppe Ceracchi’s (1751-1801) revision of Jean Jacques Caffieri  (1725 -1792).6  While the artist and true use for this amazing object are yet unknown it proudly stands as a monument of late 18th century wood carving of “The First American.”

1 Richard Newman, Examination Report, Department of Objects Conservation and Scientific Research, Museum of Fine Arts Boston, September 5, 1996.
2 Arbour,“Draft of preliminary report for Michael Zinman on Painted Pine Bust of Benjamin Franklin...,” manuscript, December 2, 1995, 2-3.
3 Charles Colman Sellers, Benjamin Franklin in Portraiture (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1962), p. 358.
4  Henry Wansey, An Excursion to the United States of North America in the Summer of 1794 (Salisbury: Printed and sold by J. Easton, 1798), p. 112.
5 Letter, Keith Arbour to Karie Deithirn, January 19, 1996.
6 Sellers, Benjamin Franklin in Portraiture, illus. 17.

Important Americana

|
New York