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 Manuel Joachim De Franca  (1808 - 1865)

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Lived/Active: Pennsylvania/Missouri / Spain/Portugal      Known for: portrait, history and religion painter, teaching

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Manuel Joachim De Francia is primarily known as Manuel Joachim De Franca

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Ad Code: 3
Manuel Joachim Defranca
from Auction House Records.
Portrait of a Young Southern Girl with Gold Pocketwatch
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Manuel Joachim de Franca (1808-1865) was the first-born son of a successful wine merchant from the Island of Madeira, Portugal.  Sent to Lisbon for his education, he studied art in the school founded by Francisco Goya. In 1826, he joined in the revolt against the Don Miguel government. After government forces suppressed the rebellion, de Franca was imprisoned and sentenced to death, along with many of his fellow liberals. Friends arranged their escape and smuggled them onto a ship to Philadelphia. 

The 18-year-old artist spoke little English when he arrived in the United States, but an older artist, Joshua Shaw (c. 1777–1860), befriended him. Shaw was one of the originators of American landscape painting. De Franca also studied with Thomas Sully (1783-1872) and Sully’s son-in-law John Neagle (1796-1865). De Franca also taught. Among his students was John Sartain (1808-1897), the engraver, who remembered de Franca teaching him how to paint figures in oil. The Portuguese artist exhibited his work on the site of the Peale Museum with Joshua Shaw and Emanuel Leutze (1816-1868), and at the Apollo Gallery in New York City. He submitted paintings to the American Art Union.

In 1842, with his bride Mary Mahala Dawson, he traveled to western Pennsylvania to decorate church altars. Then moving on to Tennessee, and Kentucky, he painted portraits until settling in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1844.  Quickly he became the city’s most popular portrait artist and soon had a studio in a prestigious neighborhood. He founded the Western Academy of Art in 1860, but retired soon after due to lung disease. He died in 1865. 

Portraits by Manuel Joachim de Franca are owned by the Corcoran Gallery of Art and the Smithsonian Institution’s National Portrait Gallery, Washington, DC; the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; the Chicago Historical Society; Ashland, the Henry Clay Estate, Lexington, Kentucky; the Filson Historical Society, Louisville, Kentucky; the Hingham Historical Society, Old Ordinary, Hingham, Massachusetts; New York State Historical Association, Cooperstown, New York; the Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, New York, the Missouri Historical Society, St. Louis, Missouri, the State Historical Society of Missouri, Columbia, Missouri; and in many private collections.  


Karen McCoskey Goering, “Manuel de Franca: St. Louis Portrait Painter,” Gateway Heritage (St. Louis, Missouri Historical Society) (Volume 3 Number 3), 31-35

John Sartain, Reminiscences of a Very Old Man, 1808-1897 (New York: D. Appleton & Company, 1900), 143, 175-176, 179

“Manuel Joachim de Franca,” Smithsonian Research and Scholars’ Center Inventory of American Paintings

Submitted by Patricia Moss, Fine Art Investigations, Long Beach, Washington

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