Collections and Critiques

Picture by Robert Feke Now Hangs in Lehman Hall

The first portrait ever painted of Benjamin Franklin now hangs in the Bursar's office in Lehman Hall.

This painting has been in the possession of the University since 1856, when it was presented by Dr. J. C. Warren. The gift marked the one hundred and third anniversary of the conferring on Franklin of a Harvard master of arts degree. During the time the painting has been owned by the University it has hung in Memorial Hall, though it was removed some time ago to be given a thorough cleansing in the Fogg Museum. It has just been placed in Lehman Hall.

Artist a Point of Discussion

The execution of the portrait has been for a number of years open to discussion. It has been contested that the painting was drawn by an English artist, brought to this country by Franklin himself, and given to his brother. Others believe that it was painted at Newport, R. J., when Franklin was visiting his brother there, when Benjamin was about 30 years of age. It is now generally established, however, that the picture was executed by Robert Feke, the best of the pre-Copley artists in America, in Philadelphia in 1746, when Franklin was 40 years of age. It shows Franklin at about the time of his retirement from the printing business with what was for those days an ample fortune. He was then devoting himself seriously to the study of experimental science, to which, for the previous ten years, he had been giving much of his time. He was still postmaster of Philadelphia, an office which he had held for nearly ten years.