Click main image below to view enlargements and captions.

Portrait Art, Benjamin Franklin, Tompkins Harrison Matteson, Antique Mezzotint Print, 1840s


Tompkins Harrison Matteson (1813-1884) (after)
Henry S. Sadd (engraver)
Benjamin Franklin
J. Neale: c. 1845-50
Hand-colored engraving
20.25 x 14.75 inches image
23.5 x 17.75 inches overall
24.25 x 31 inches, frame

Full-length portrait engraving of Benjamin Franklin made from a painting done long after his death by a popular painter of historical subjects. Franklin sits at a desk before a bookcase, with a couple of massive volumes on the floor. He is surrounded by apparent allusions to his career: the quill pen shows that he is a writer, a map and a globe relate to his diplomatic career, the pair of glasses held in his left hand is a reminder of his invention of bifocals, and the lightning storm raging beyond the window suggests his famous electricity experiment. The print is inscribed: “Benjamin Franklin/ Born in Boston Jan. 17th 1706. Died in Philadelphia, April 17th 1790.” The artist and engraver are identified in the lower margin. This engraving is framed in a gilt frame with black panel.

Product Description Continues Below


Tompkins Harrison Matteson was a painter of genre, historical and patriotic scenes. Born in Peterboro, New York, he studied briefly at the National Academy in New York. Aside from the period from 1841 to 1950, which he spent in New York City, he lived in rural Sherburne where he had many relatives and was an active member of the community. His popular paintings of Colonial and Revolutionary history treated such events as The Founding of Maryland (1853, Maryland State Archives) and patriotic subjects such as The Spirit of ’76. His more sentimental genre pictures of courtship or domestic scenes were often engraved for women’s magazines, such as Taking the Advantage and The Doctor.  He also depicted rustic scenes such as Justice’s Court in the Backwoods (1850) and Turkey Shoot (1857), which illustrated a scene from a James Fenimore Cooper novel. Matteson also taught art; among his many students was the distinguished painter Elihu Vedder.

Henry S. Sadd was a mezzotint engraver, born in England. He exhibited in London before coming to America around 1840. He spent the 1840’s in New York and exhibited at the National Academy. Sadd engraved at least two works after Tompkins Harrison Matteson for the publisher J. Neale – this offered portrait of Benjamin Franklin and a scene of George Washington delivering his inaugural address. After 1849, he emigrated to Australia.

Condition: Generally very good with the usual overall light toning and wear. Professionally cleaned and color possibly retouched. Frame good with the usual wear.


Groce, George C. and Wallace, David H. The New-York Historical Society’s Dictionary of Artists in America 1564-1860. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1969. pp. 431 (Matteson), 554 (Sadd).

Tompkins Harrison Matteson. The Grove Dictionary of Art. New York: Macmillan. 2000. (26 September 2006).

Additional information


19th Century