In this post we now get to see a side profile of James Madison from his life mask. The life mask was cast in 1825 of Madison’s head and upper torso by John Henri Isaac Browere.
J. I. Browere’s “work achieved a stark realism uncommon in that day. His plaster busts showed the age-lined brow, the pock-marked face; his subjects appeared as they were, not as artists generally portrayed them. His life masks were, and remain, the most authentic likenesses of some historic figures who lived in a day before photography provided more easily obtained but similarly uncompromising portraits.”1
Here we see how Madison might have styled his hair. From his various paintings, we know he usually had protruding side hair. The first image shows him with protruding side hair. The second image shows him with the side hair trimmed.
The third image shows Madison without his “widow’s peak ” comb-over. In all of his paintings, we see him sporting this comb-over. Perhaps on days when he was not in public and hanging around the house, he might not have bothered to do the comb-over.
Variations of Paintings
Below are several of the known paintings of Madison. From what I see, artists were all over the place. Some of these images look nothing like Madison.
Using Madison’s life mask and comparing it with known portraits, Asher Durand’s 1833 painting appears to be the most faithful likeness of Madison, at least in his later years.
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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 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.
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!
While most transformed image compositions on this site fall under a Creative Commons license and are shareable with attribution, the images in this post are restricted. 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. Permission for image use must be obtained from both Digital Yarbs and Fenimore Art Museum.