The Apotheosis of Franklin

Furnishing Fabric
1780-1790 (made)
The Apotheosis of Franklin thumbnail 1
Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
British Galleries, Room 118a
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

Object Type
This furnishing fabric has been printed using engraved copper plates. The introduction of copper-plate printing in the 1750s introduced new possibilities in the development of printed textile design, allowing a fineness of detail and delicacy of drawing which had not been achieved in earlier wood-block printed textiles. It also allowed much larger pattern repeats, which made it particularly suitable for bed hangings.

Subject Depicted
The figure of George Washington, first President of the United States of America, is taken from a painting by the American artist John Trumbull (1756-1843) that had been engraved by Valentine Green in 1781. One scene shows Washington driving a chariot with an allegorical figure of America holding a plaque inscribed 'American Independence 1776'. The other main scene shows the goddess Athene with the statesman Benjamin Franklin and a figure of Liberty bearing a scroll inscribed 'where liberty dwells there is my country'.

Ownership & Use
The popularity of this subject in America can be judged from the variety of surviving examples there, printed in different colours, on textiles of different quality, composition and width with details changed or omitted. The design is known to have been used in the house of the President of Congress, Richard Henry Lee, in New York in 1785, described by a guest : 'My chamber is ... prettily furnished. Which way soever I turn my eyes I find a triumphal Car, a liberty Cap, a Temple of Fame or the Hero of Heroes [Washington], all these and many more objects of a piece with them, being finely represented on the hangings.'


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Plate-printed linen and cotton
Brief Description
Furnishing fabric 'The Apotheosis of Franklin' of plate-printed linen and cotton, England, 1780-1790
Physical Description
Furnishing fabric of plate-printed linen and cotton in red. One scene shows George Washington driving a chariot in which sits an allegorical figure of America. She holds a plaque inscribed 'AMERICAN INDEPENDANCE 1776'. To their right is an Indian carrying a trumpet with a banner decorated with a serpent on which is inscribed 'UNITE OR DIE'. The other scene shows Athena with Benjamin Franklin and a figure of Liberty on the right bearing a scroll inscribed 'WHERE LIBERTY DWELLS THERE IS MY COUNTRY'. To the left, two putti carry a map of America above which is a figure of Fame.
Dimensions
  • Height: 146.7cm
  • Width: 76.9cm
  • Width: 30in
  • Height: 56.5in
Marks and Inscriptions
  • 'AMERICAN / INDEPEND- / -ANCE, 1776' (Inscribed on the plaque held by America)
  • 'UNITE OR DIE' (Inscribed on the serpent on the trumpeter's banner)
  • 'WHERE LIBERTY DWELLS THERE IS MY COUNTRY' (Inscribed on the scroll held by Liberty)
Gallery Label
British Galleries: Before the 19th century textile printing was only attempted on a small scale in America and printed cottons and linens were imported in enormous quantities from England. In 1785 this design was noted as a furnishing in the New York residence of Richard Henry Lee, the President of Congress.(27/03/2003)
Credit line
Given by the Henry Francis du Pont Winterthur Museum
Object history
Printed in England
Summary
Object Type
This furnishing fabric has been printed using engraved copper plates. The introduction of copper-plate printing in the 1750s introduced new possibilities in the development of printed textile design, allowing a fineness of detail and delicacy of drawing which had not been achieved in earlier wood-block printed textiles. It also allowed much larger pattern repeats, which made it particularly suitable for bed hangings.

Subject Depicted
The figure of George Washington, first President of the United States of America, is taken from a painting by the American artist John Trumbull (1756-1843) that had been engraved by Valentine Green in 1781. One scene shows Washington driving a chariot with an allegorical figure of America holding a plaque inscribed 'American Independence 1776'. The other main scene shows the goddess Athene with the statesman Benjamin Franklin and a figure of Liberty bearing a scroll inscribed 'where liberty dwells there is my country'.

Ownership & Use
The popularity of this subject in America can be judged from the variety of surviving examples there, printed in different colours, on textiles of different quality, composition and width with details changed or omitted. The design is known to have been used in the house of the President of Congress, Richard Henry Lee, in New York in 1785, described by a guest : 'My chamber is ... prettily furnished. Which way soever I turn my eyes I find a triumphal Car, a liberty Cap, a Temple of Fame or the Hero of Heroes [Washington], all these and many more objects of a piece with them, being finely represented on the hangings.'
Collection
Accession Number
CIRC.93-1960

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record createdMarch 27, 2003
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