Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Frankliniana on Display

Jean Baptiste Weyler (1747-1791). Benjamin Franklin. Paris, ca. 1785. Purchase of the Library Company, 2013.

Having acquired French artist Jean Baptiste Weyler’s gorgeous portrait miniature of Benjamin Franklin in 2013, the Library Company needed to find a fitting way to display it. That challenge inspired us to consider putting more of our precious Franklin art and artifacts on permanent display.  It turned out to be an easy step from envisioning the exhibition of the jeweled miniature to devoting the whole North wall of the Logan room to our founder.

To start, a glass case was installed to house our new acquisition and several related artifacts, including Franklin’s glass electrostatic tube (which generates static electricity when rubbed by a cloth or piece of leather), a magnifying mirror he gave to the Library in 1743, and two medals (Libertas Americana, commemorating the American victory during the revolution, and a Peace Medal handed out to Native Americans).  The case includes space for one book and one print on a rotating basis.  A snuff box Franklin commissioned in 1779 from Fran├žois Dumont, with a portrait of himself, is also displayed in the case (housed in a new box designed to protect the delicate watercolor on ivory from light).  William Bucher created new mounts that are painted to match the objects seamlessly, making each appear as if it were floating.

James Reid Lambdin (1807-1889). Benjamin Franklin, ca. 1880. Oil on canvas. Purchased by the Library Company, 1880.

Above the case hangs James Reid Lambdin’s copy of David Martin’s portrait of Franklin. But before it could be displayed, the painting first needed restoration. Painting conservator Carole Abercauph cleaned the canvas and mended two tears. Furniture conservator Bret Headley conserved the frame. It’s wonderful to have Dr. Franklin in the Logan room watching over his legacy!

Jean-Jacques Caffieri (1725-1792). Benjamin Franklin, ca. 1779-1784. Plaster. Gift of Walter Franklin, 1805.

We are also fortunate to have a bust of Franklin by Jean-Jacques Caffieri, but it needed a new pedestal to be shown off to the best advantage. The bust hasn’t been cleaned since we acquired it and has darkened greatly with years of dirt and grime. In addition to the required cleaning, several loses in the plaster needed to be restored. Sculpture conservator Linda Lennon is undertaking these tasks and, though they are not yet complete, photographs of the progress are astonishing. John C. Van Horne generously funded this conservation work in honor of the Library Company’s Board of Trustees. We are looking forward to the bust’s return and hope you have the opportunity to visit the new Franklin installation soon!

1 comment:

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