Benjamin Franklin

Artist: Henry Kirke Brown (American, Leyden, Massachusetts 1814–1886 Newburgh, New York)

Date: 1852

Medium: Bronze

Dimensions: 9 3/8 x 8 1/2 x 1 3/4 in. (23.8 x 21.6 x 4.4 cm)

Classification: Sculpture

Credit Line: Morris K. Jesup Fund, 2004

Accession Number: 2004.44


In 1852 Brown completed high-relief profile portraits of three American founding fathers - George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790). The Franklin medallion reflects Brown's signature naturalistic modeling of human form, evident in the receding hairline, incised pupils, and fleshy jowls. Likewise, his scrupulous attention to textural variation is reflected in the finely chased and stippled high collar, buttoned jacket, and long hair. This highly finished relief is a superlative example of early American bronze casting and was produced at the Ames Manufacturing Company in Chicopee, Massachusetts. The number of Franklin medallions cast by Ames is not documented; the Metropolitan's bronze is the only located example with a foundry mark. Brown's success with bronze casting inspired the next generation of American sculptors to opt more frequently for bronze instead of marble.