Lost Daguerreotype Photograph of James and Dolley Madison taken by Mathew B. Brady.

The Lost Daguerreotype Photographs of James and Dolley Madison

The Lost Daguerreotype Photographs of James and Dolley Madison

Lost to history and now found….. A very rare glimpse of  Daguerreotype photographs by Matthew Brady of James Madison with his beloved Dolley Madison.

1Matthew Brady,  a skilled daguerreotypist,  learned the technical aspects of the process from the American pioneers of the medium, Samuel Morse and John Draper. Brady opened his first studio in 1844 and set himself the task of photographing the nation’s leading figures—presidents and military men, business leaders and stars of the stage, writers and artists.

2“James Madison was a sickly and slightly built man who stood just 5 feet 4 inches tall and rarely tipped the scales at much more than 100 pounds. His voice was so weak that people often had difficulty hearing his speeches, and he was plagued by recurring bouts of “bilious fever” and what he described as “a constitutional liability to sudden attacks, somewhat resembling epilepsy.” While contemporaries praised Madison’s fierce intelligence, many also made note of his small size and timid demeanor. The wife of a Virginia politician once labeled him ‘the most unsociable creature in existence.'”

However, James was known to have a wicked sense of humor and could tell a dirty joke or two among  friends and acquaintances.
3“A British diplomat found him a ‘jovial and good-humored companion.’ Another source called James ‘an incessant humorist’ who “set his table guests daily into roars of laughter over his stories and whimsical ways of telling them.”

Lost Daguerreotype Photograph of James and Dolley Madison
Lost Daguerreotype Photograph of James and Dolley Madison taken by Mathew B. Brady.

4“In contrast to Madison’s quiet and retiring personality, his wife Dolley was a social butterfly known for her exuberance, warmth and wit. When Madison began his first term as president in 1809, she embraced the role of first lady and helped define its duties by redecorating the White House and hosting the first ever Inaugural Ball. By serving as the “directress” of an orphanage for young girls, she also started the tradition of first ladies taking on a public outreach project. Dolley proved particularly effective in her job as the White House hostess. Her weekly receptions became a hot ticket among foreign dignitaries, intellectuals and politicians, leading writer Washington Irving to remark on the ‘blazing splendor of Mrs. Madison’s drawing room.'”

Daguerreotype Photograph of James and Dolley Madison
Lost Daguerreotype Photograph of James and Dolley Madison taken by Mathew B. Brady.

Ok….Gotcha!

A little fake history for fun…….Yes, we know there were never any photographs taken of James Madison, and there were no lost daguerreotype photographs of him, as he died in 1836. Daguerreotype photography was just getting started in the early 1840s.

This post is just a continuation of my work with life masks and exploring what I can do with them.

James Madison Life Mask Photoshop Restoration
(Left) James Madison, 1825, John Henri Isaac Browere (1790-1834), Plaster, H: 28.5 x W: 21 x D: 11.5 in. Fenimore Art Museum, Cooperstown, New York, Gift of Stephen C. Clark, N0244.1940. Photograph by Richard Walker. (Used By Permission) (Right) Life Mask Photoshop Reconstruction of James Madison

Using James Madison’s life mask along with actual photographs of Dolley Madison, I was able to create, with Photoshop, the closest thing to a photo of this famous presidential couple as we can get.

Here are the unaltered originals.

Photographs of Dolley Madison
(Left) Dolley Dandridge Payne Todd Madison, 20 May 1768 – 12 Jul 1849 Anna Payne, 1819 – 9 Nov 1852 (Right) Dolley Dandridge Payne Todd Madison, 20 May 1768 – 12 Jul 1849

Click the logo to see all of my Photoshop creations: Digital Yarbs Logo

Life Mask Photoshop Reconstructions
Before photography, life masks gave us the perfect likeness of people. Plaster was applied to the head and sometimes upper torso to create a mold to cast the life mask of a person. Using life masks, I was able to complete a forensic/academic study of how the subjects most likely appeared using Adobe Photoshop to add flesh, hair, and other details.
Intimate History Tours
Intimate History Tours sprang from an Adobe Photoshop graphic novel I created using James Madison as a fictional character. The graphic novel became too long and challenging, so I decided to focus on shorter blog posts with different personages from history. I visit a historical location and then “Photoshop” a virtual tour in which you and I get to meet folks from history.
The Madison Project
It all started with a graphic novel aimed at a Star Trek, Star Wars fan base who may not otherwise consider historical fiction. One could read this novel and get a historically accurate account of James Madison intertwined with a good science fiction story. The Madison project is a series of blog posts featuring select images from that effort as well as a Second Amendment meme centered around Madison.
What started as a fictional graphic novel has led me to an in-depth study and curiosity to know everything about him, including what he looked like. Anyway, doing all this research on Madison and making at least two trips to Montpelier, I feel as if I’ve gotten to know the little fellow and Dolley too!

It’s been fun.

Classic Cars
All things “Old Cars.”
Blast From the Past
Blast from the past is a series of posts about tidbits from the past that I find interesting. Anything could show up here!
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Sources & References:
Department of Photographs. “The Daguerreian Era and Early American Photography on Paper, 1839–60.” In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/adag/hd_adag.htm (October 2004)
3David O. Stewart. “The Surprising Raucous Home Life of the Madisons” httpss://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/surprising-raucous-home-life-madisons-180954205/
2,4 Evan Andrews. “10 Things You May Not Know About James Madison”. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/adag/hd_adag.htm (March 2016)

Original Life Mask Image Source: James Madison, 1825, John Henri Isaac Browere (1790-1834), Plaster, H: 28.5 x W: 21 x D: 11.5 in. Fenimore Art Museum, Cooperstown, New York, Gift of Stephen C. Clark, N0244.1940. Photograph by Richard Walker. (Used By Permission)

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Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Transformed Images on this site as a whole that I have created are free to anyone for NonCommercial use with attribution under the license above. Images on this site that are used by permission, logos and images of me do not fall under this license. While most of my image elements are public domain, my own, from free stock sites or from purchased stock sites , some elements may be from copyrighted sources and are in my best judgment, “transformative fair use” for use on this site. If you use a transformed image I created, keep in mind that some images may have elements from purchased stock sites or copyrighted elements within the transformed images. These elements may or may not be transferable for your use. To understand transformative fair use, please see the Creative Law Center’s post about copyright and fair use: Is it Fair Use? Using the Creative Work of Others

The original life mask image of James Madison is copyright Richard Walker of the Fenimore Art Museum, and the Digital Yarbs Photoshop restorations are restricted to internet and video use of yarbs.net exclusively per agreement with Fenimore Art Museum.

2 thoughts on “The Lost Daguerreotype Photographs of James and Dolley Madison”

  1. It was pretty obvious Jemmy Madison was fake. The head was way too big. BUT PLEASE NOTE. DAGS OF DOLLY ARE all signed EASTMAN JOHNSON ACROSS THE TOP. He was working just as early as Brady and I believe he was way more prolific. He painted her frequently when he had an office/studio in the capitol building in 1847. I see thousands of his works with signatures, that remain unrecognized because his faint shadowy, intended to blend in signature is so hard to see. Once you learn it you see it everywhere. frequently looks like finger painting along a top or bottom edge. Also ID’s people with shadowy letters on their face, hair , knuckles.

    1. Thank you, James, for the constructive criticism. I do believe you are correct. I went back tonight and analyzed Jemmy and reduced his head. The proportions now look better. I also had a 2nd set of eyes view the comparisons, and we both agree on the smaller head.
      Very few people take the time to critique other’s work, but I appreciate it when they do.
      Also, thank you for the information about Eastman Johnson. I did not know this. It appears that many sources credit Brady for the photos of Dolley.

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