Benjamin Franklin

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Between 1904 and 1906, the director of the American Museum of Natural History in New York commissioned William Couper to create twelve heroic portrait busts of internationally famous scientists. Couper hoped that the prominent display of the busts in the museum’s foyer would lead to future commissions. He researched the lives of each scientist carefully and made multiple models until he was convinced that he had captured not only the likeness, but also the spirit of each man. Two years of painstaking work paid off when the director praised the impressive installation. This portrait of Benjamin Franklin remained in the Museum of Natural History until 1960, when Couper’s busts were distributed to other institutions.

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“I have been strongly impressed with the character of the men as you have expressed it in these portraits.” Morris K. Jessup, President of the American Museum of Natural History, to William Couper, January 1, 1907

Benjamin Franklin
ca. 1906
37 x 29 3/4 x 16 1/2 in. (94.0 x 75.6 x 41.9 cm)
Credit Line

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Gift of the American Museum of Natural History

Mediums Description
  • Occupation – political – statesman
  • Portrait male – Franklin, Benjamin – bust
Object Number
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