Portrait of Benjamin Franklin

Portrait of Benjamin Franklin


Giovanni Battista Nini

(Italian, 1717-1786)


Diameter: 11.4 cm (4 1/2 in.)

Bequest of James Parmelee 1940.578



Scholars debate whether Nini met Benjamin Franklin personally or based the nine versions of his portrait on drawings by artist Thomas Walpole (British, 1755-1840). In this particular cast, Nini presents Franklin with a fur hat, which may be an allusion to French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau, suggesting a comparison between the inventor and the philosopher and their roles in revolutionary politics on both sides of the Atlantic. Nini copied Franklin's fur hat from a portrait of Rousseau by Allan Ramsay (Scottish, 1713-1784). The small crest below Franklin's left shoulder shows a bolt of lightning striking an iron bar held by a hand, a reference to Franklin's discovery of the lightning rod and electricity.

See also
Type of artwork: 

Contact us

The information about this object, including provenance information, is based on historic information and may not be currently accurate or complete. Research on objects is an ongoing process, but the information about this object may not reflect the most current information available to CMA. If you notice a mistake or have additional information about this object, please email collectionsdata@clevelandart.org.

To request more information about this object, study images, or bibliography, contact the Ingalls Library Reference Desk.

Is something not working on this page? Please email help.website@clevelandart.org.

Request a digital file from Image Services that is not available through CC0, a detail image, or any image with a color bar. If you have questions about requesting an image, please email imageservices@clevelandart.org.