Philly.com has reported that a valuable bust of Benjamin Franklin done in 1778 has been stolen from a Bryn Mawr home. The bust was done by the famous French sculptor Jean-Antoine Houdon who met Franklin while in Paris as the first Ambassador to France of the newly formed United States of America from 1776-1785. A terra cotta version was exhibited at the French Royal Academy Salon exhibition of 1779. It is believed that Houdin on properly met Franklin in person in 1783 so the likeness was captured without a proper sitting. At Franklin’s request, Houdon was to later travel to the US and capture some of the most famous figures of the newly born state including, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Paul Jones, and Robert Fulton.
There are only four significant versions of the Franklin bust in existence and the Bryn Mawr version was the only one in private hands with the other three belonging to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and the Louvre in Paris. George A. D’Angelo and his wife Brenda who own the sculpture were out of the house for lunch when they received a frantic call from one of their household staff indicating that the focal point of their drawing room had disappeared. The main suspect in the case is a newly hired member of the staff, Andrea Lawton who also disappeared around them same time Franklin left the premises. The bust weighs 25 pounds and is made out of porcelin, therefore the owners fear for its safety.
The bust is even the subject of the book Encountering Genius: Jean-Antoine Houdon’s Sculpted Portraits of Benjamin Franklin by Jack Hinton, Melissa S. Meighan, and Andrew Lins