by Cire Trudon
Cire Trudon's Benjamin Franklin is a wax replica of a marble bust made in Paris in 1779 by renowned French sculptor Jean-Antoine Houdon.
While minister from the American colonies to France from 1776 to 1785, Benjamin Franklin was a popular celebrity there. The rage for his likeness resulted in images ranging from marble busts and paintings to prints and miniatures.
This bust was created by Houdon, the leading portrait sculptor of the eighteenth century. It is the most powerful and fully realized version of the best-known portrait of Franklin. Houdon's accomplishment is the more remarkable in that Franklin did not sit for the sculptor--the men did not meet formally until 1783. Presumably Houdon drew upon his experience of seeing Franklin at events such as meetings of the Masonic lodge to which they both belonged.
There are only two examples of Houdon's Franklin bust in the desirable and costly material of marble. The bust in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, dated 1778, remained in the sculptor's possession until 1785. The Philadelphia Museum of Art's bust, dated 1779, is in every way the more carefully carved portrait, commissioned by an unknown person. The differences between the two marble busts may be due to the sculptor's exceptional effort to please his patron, and perhaps also to Houdon's increased familiarity with his subject's features.
Houdon's Franklin is posed frontally, head slightly lowered, his asymmetrical face rendered in great detail. Normally, Franklin was taciturn, and Houdon rendered his deliberate manner so that it appears to capture the outward manifestation of Franklin's mind at work. The result is fascinating and powerful.
Finished in 'dollar green' colored wax -- a nod to Franklin's portrait on the US $100 bill.