Ah! Ah! Encore une critique du Sallon!. Paris, 1779, p. 20, calls this portrait of Benjamin Franklin a speaking likeness but a little gray; states that he is wearing a white satin suit.
P. S. du Pont de Nemours. Lettre à Margrave Caroline-Louise de Bade. 1779 [Salon review, in "Lettres sur les Salons," Archives de l'art français, nouvelle période, vol. 2, 1908, pp. 105–7], praises it and compares it with Alexander Roslin's portrait of Linnaeus, also exhibited at the Salon; reads Franklin's character in his features and expression, noting that his appearance and life correspond to the laconic inscription at the bottom, Vir.
Friedrich Grimm. Correspondance littéraire (October 1779) [reprinted in "Correspondance littéraire, philosophique et critique. . . ," ed. Maurice Tourneux, vol. 12, 1880, p. 327], observes that it would be Duplessis's masterpiece if the position of the sitter were better indicated: it is not clear whether he is standing or seated, and he appears to be falling.
[l'abbé Grosier]. Coup-d'oeil sur les ouvrages de peinture, sculpture et gravure de messieurs de l'académie royale. Geneva, 1779, p. 35, as an accurate likeness.
Le miracle de nos jours; conversation écrite et recueillie par un sourd et muet; et la bonne lunette. 1779, p. 42, observes that although it is a good likeness, Duplessis has given Franklin a very common appearance: this famous foreigner can scarcely be recognized.
[L. J. H. Lefebure]. Janot, au Salon; ou Le proverbe. Paris, 1779, p. 28, as a work which brings the greatest honor on Duplessis; although we must assume the sitter is seated, it might have been helpful to indicate a seat of some kind, so that the subject would not have the appearance of falling.
[Lesuire]. Le mort vivant au Salon de 1779. Paris, 1779, p. 19.
"Lettre d'un Italien sur l'exposition de 1779." Mercure de France (September 1779) [p. 133 according to Ref. Sterling 1955; transcribed in Collection Deloynes, no. 230, p. 769], praises the portrait
Mouffle d'Angerville. Letter. London, September 25, 1779 [in "Mémoires secrets pour servir à l'histoire de la république des lettres en France . . .," London, 1777–89; reprinted in "Les Salons de Bachaumont," ed. F. Faré, 1995, p. 89], states that the portrait corresponds to its brief device, Vir.
Elkanah Watson. Journal entry. September 15, 1779 [New York State Library, MS journal of Elkanah Watson, 3 43 55, excerpts in Ref. Sellers 1962, pp. 125–26], reports that when he crowded into the galleries of the Louvre on September 14 and 15 he found there "that masterpiece of painting representing our Illustrious Patron Doctr. Franklin, who is deposited (as a mark of particular respect) upon the left of his present Majesty"; elsewhere describes the portrait as hanging to the left of the those of the King and Queen.
Benjamin Franklin. Letter in French to Pierre Simon Fournier. Spring 1780 [in Ref. Oswald 1926, p. 10], states that Duplessis made a good portrait of himself in large size for M. de Chaumont and recommends it as a model to be copied in miniature, in this way saving Franklin the time and trouble of sitting again.
Jules Belleudy. J.-S. Duplessis, peintre du roi, 1725–1802. Chartres, 1913, pp. 1, 49, 85–87, 144, 304–5, 321–22, no. 57, ascribes to Duplessis at least seven replicas (New York, Boston, Berlin, Douai, Brest, two in Avignon) of the Franklin portrait exhibited in the 1779 Salon; notes that the original, which he identifies with the example in Boston, was made for Le Ray de Chaumont and engraved by Chevillet; mentions a 1783 pastel of Franklin by Duplessis (New York Public Library); reports some 1779 Salon commentary, and [mistakenly] includes remarks that refer to Franklin in a white satin coat.
"Col. Friedsam Buys Portrait of Franklin." New York Times (September 16, 1919), p. 31, reports Friedsam's purchase of this portrait and states that Franklin presented it to the Périer brothers when he concluded his ambassadorship in Paris.
John Clyde Oswald. Benjamin Franklin in Oil and Bronze. New York, 1926, pp. 10, 12, ill. opp. title page, observes that this portrait and others by Duplessis of Franklin are known as "fur collar" portraits, and that Richard S. Greenough is quoted as saying that Franklin's fondness for fur in his pictures was due to the fact that fur was used as a professional badge by the early printers.
Louis Réau. L'art français aux États-Unis. Paris, 1926, pp. 67–68, compares the puffy, clean-shaven face of Franklin emerging from a fur collar to the portrait of Franklin that Greuze showed in his studio in 1777; identifies the picture shown at the 1779 Salon as the example in the Friedsam collection, noting that it has the same inscription, Vir, on its frame that Dupont de Nemours mentions; states that the Friedsam portrait was owned by the Périer brothers, who acquired it directly from Franklin
Louis Réau in The Michael Friedsam Collection. [completed 1928], pp. 194–95.
"Friedsam Bequest to be Exhibited Next November." Art News 30 (January 2, 1932), p. 13.
Bryson Burroughs and Harry B. Wehle. "The Michael Friedsam Collection: Paintings." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 27, section 2 (November 1932), pp. 50–52, no. 87, ill., believe this is the portrait shown at the Salon of 1779, as it is superior in quality to the others, is the only signed and dated example, and bears the word VIR on its regilded period frame; state that Friedsam bought it from a member of the Périer family; mention the tradition that M. de Chaumont was forced to sell his effects in 1791 and suppose that our picture may have been bought by the Périers at that time; mention nine copies.
Josephine L. Allen. Eminent Americans. New York, 1939, unpaginated, fig. 2.
Michel N. Benisovich. "Duplessis in the United States, Addenda: 'Benjamin Franklin' at the White House, a Letter and a Drawing." Gazette des beaux-arts, 6th ser., 29 (May 1946), pp. 287–88, fig. 4, claims that Duplessis regularly exhibited replicas of Chaumont's Franklin, shown in 1779, through the Salon of 1801; identifies Chaumont's portrait with the one in Boston; publishes a Franklin portrait given in 1945 by General de Gaulle to President Truman as a Duplessis sketch.
Charles Sterling. "XV–XVIII Centuries." The Metropolitan Museum of Art: A Catalogue of French Paintings. 1, Cambridge, Mass., 1955, pp. 171–73, ill., as the principal version, asserts that Duplessis painted a second portrait of Franklin in 1778, known through an engraving by Ambroise Tardieu and claims that a third version by Duplessis, in which Franklin appears without the fur collar, was exhibited at the Salon of 1801 and engraved by Pierre Alexandre Tardieu.
Albert Ten Eyck Gardner. "Huntington's Franklins." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 15 (Summer 1956), pp. 16–17, ill. on cover (color),
Charles Coleman Sellers. Exhibition of Portraits Marking the 250th Anniversary of the Birth of the Society's Founder, Benjamin Franklin. Exh. cat., American Philosophical Society. [Philadelphia], , pp. 17–18.
The Papers of Benjamin Franklin. 1, New Haven, 1959, p. xix, ill. (color, frontispiece).
Charles Coleman Sellers. Benjamin Franklin in Portraiture. New Haven, 1962, pp. 124–37, 179, 246–64, 282, 317–18, 370, pl. 24, catalogues our picture and nineteen replicas; sees the pastel in the New York Public Library as either the original study for our picture or a contemporary copy by the artist, dating it 1778; based on the engraving of the 1801 Salon believes the Franklin portrait shown there by Duplessis was a fur collar portrait, matted or painted as an oval, and tentatively suggests it is the example at that time in the collection of the Earl of Ilchester, London; lists the symbols on the frame as a rattlesnake, liberty cap, club of Hercules, lion skin (for Britain), a branch of olive (for peace), a wreath of bay laurel (for victory), and a wreath of oak.
Nicholas B. Wainwright. "'Benjamin Franklin in Portraiture.' By Charles Coleman Sellers, 1962." Mississippi Valley Historical Review 50 (June 1963), p. 116.
Claude-Anne Lopez. Mon Cher Papa: Franklin and the Ladies of Paris. New Haven, 1966, pp. 127, 140, 209, 233.
Louise Todd Ambler. Benjamin Franklin: A Perspective. Exh. cat., Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, Mass. New York, 1975, pp. 82–83.
Pierre Rosenberg in French Painting, 1774–1830: The Age of Revolution. Exh. cat., Detroit Institute of Arts. Detroit, 1975, p. 405.
Meredith Martindale. "Benjamin Franklin's Residence in France: The Hôtel de Valentinois in Passy." Antiques 112 (August 1977), p. 273, ill. (Janinet engraving).
Michael Warner. "Franklin and the Letters of the Republic." Representations (Autumn 1986), p. 126, sees the inscription VIR or "virtuous citizen" as a pun on "fur" or "thief of letters", relating the inscription to Franklin's 1774 confrontation with Alexander Wedderburn, who attacked Franklin (then in England) before the Privy Council for sending secretly acquired inflamatory letters of Thomas Hutchinson, Governor of Massachusetts, back to influential men in the Colonies.
Michael Warner. The Letters of the Republic: Publication and the Public Sphere in Eighteenth-Century America. Cambridge, Mass., 1990, p. 96.
Keith Arbour. "One Last Word: Benjamin Franklin and the Duplessis Portrait of 1778." Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 118 (July 1994), pp. 183–208, fig. 1, suggests that "Franklin worked with Duplessis to insure that the portrait would convey the final word in the Franklin-Wedderburn exchange"; believes the pastel study (New York Public Library) precedes our painting and that the alteration of dress to include a fur collar was purposeful and made at Franklin's request.
Thierry Bajou in The Dictionary of Art. 9, New York, 1996, p. 400.
W. H. Bailey. Defining Edges: A New Look at Picture Frames. New York, 2002, pp. 60–61, ill. (color).
F. Marandet in Allgemeines Künstlerlexikon: die bildenden Künstler aller Zeiten und Völker. 31, Munich, 2002, p. 57.
Jean-Paul Chabaud. Joseph-Siffred Duplessis, 1725–1802: Biographie. Mazan, 2003, pp. 41, 112, 123–24, ill. p. XVI (color).
Kimberly Chrisman-Campbell in French Art of the Eighteenth Century at The Huntington. [San Marino, Calif.], 2008, pp. 382–83, fig. 146.