At A Glance
Carved from 30 tons of Italian marble and sits on a 92-ton base of Portuguese marble
The artist, James Earle Fraser, was raised on the American plains and studied in Paris in his late teens and twenties
The artist states that Franklin appears “ready to turn the full force of his keen mind on any problem that concerned him”
A gift to The Franklin Institute from William L. McLean, this substantial sculpture of Benjamin Franklin by James Earle Fraser was carved from 30 tons of Italian marble and sits on a 92-ton base of Portuguese marble. The artist described his sculpture’s pose: “I have conceived Franklin a massive figure, tranquil in body, with latent power in his hands, but with an inquisitive expression in the movement of his head and the alertness of his eyes, ready to turn the full force of his keen mind on any problem that concerned him.”
Once called the nation’s “most famous unknown sculptor,” Fraser is often recognized by his works – the buffalo nickel and a prodigious number of public monuments – rather than by his name. He was raised on the American plains and studied in Paris in his late teens and twenties. His work was shaped by this combination of rugged Americanism with the classical sculptural tradition.
Adapted from Public Art in Philadelphia by Penny Balkin Bach (Temple University Press, Philadelphia, 1992).