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Pride of place

Franklin portrait has special spot in Oval Office

Joseph Siffred Duplessis’ 1785 portrait of Benjamin Franklin hangs in the Oval Office, to the left of the Resolute Desk. Image: National Portrait Gallery

A painting of Benjamin Franklin — the nation’s first Postmaster General — has a place of prominence in President Joe Biden’s White House.

The 1785 portrait by Joseph Siffred Duplessis hangs in the Oval Office, just to the left of the Resolute Desk.

The Franklin painting, along with a nearby moon rock, are intended to represent Biden’s interest in science, White House aides told The Washington Post last week.

In addition to setting up a postal service for the Second Continental Congress in 1775, Franklin was known as a polymath, scientist and inventor. He is credited with inventing the lightning rod, bifocal glasses and a type of stove that bears his name, among other items.

Franklin also helped write the Declaration of Independence in 1776 and the U.S. Constitution in 1787, and he negotiated and signed the Treaty of Paris with the United Kingdom in 1783, which ended the Revolutionary War and established the nation’s independence.

The image of Franklin used on the $100 bill is based on the Duplessis portrait.

The National Portrait Gallery loaned the painting to the White House in 2018.

It was displayed in the Oval Office for part of President Donald Trump’s term, but in a different location.

Portraits and busts of Franklin have long been prominently displayed at the White House, according to the White House Historical Association:

• A circa 1778-1828 bronze bust of Franklin by Jean Antoine Houdon was displayed in the Oval Office during the presidencies of George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton.

• President Gerald Ford displayed a Franklin portrait by Charles Wilson Peale in the Oval Office.

• A portrait of Franklin by David Martin was hung in the White House’s Green Room after renovations during John F. Kennedy’s administration. The painting, which is part of the White House’s collection, no longer hangs in that room, but the room now has a bust of Franklin made by the National Porcelain Manufactory of Sevres, France.

• Another Franklin portrait, by Benjamin Wilson, was displayed in the Roosevelt Room during the Kennedy administration.

• President George W. Bush displayed Wilson’s Franklin portrait in the Treaty Room.

Franklin was born in 1706 and died in 1790 at age 84. He was Postmaster General from July 26, 1775, until Nov. 7, 1776. Previously, he spent 16 years as Postmaster of Philadelphia, then 21 years as joint Postmaster General for the British Crown in North America.

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