James Madison in the Drawing Room
Today, we are so familiar with candid photographs thanks to the proliferation of inexpensive digital cameras (we carry one everywhere we go in our smart phones), we forget that was not always the case. In early American history the only method of capturing the likeness of our founding fathers was predominately through the portraiture artists’ work. These tend to be formal and stiff. Thus, we have no visual clue what these historical figures looked like in less formal – candid circumstances.
That is until now! Now, through the magic of Adobe Photoshop, we can capture them in candid poses limited only by the imagination. In this candid photograph of James Madison, we catch the great little Madison interrupted from a conversation with the photographer glancing over his shoulder toward the door to see who was entering the room. Who could it be? Is it Dolley? Maybe it’s his close friend Thomas Jefferson. Perhaps the Marquis de Lafayette or one of the other frequent visitors to his estate, Montpelier, Orange County, Virginia.
This image started with a modern photograph of Madison’s drawing room taken by the artist during a recent visit in 2019. Stripped of all the modernity – ropes, electrical outlets, lights and smoke detectors it became the base for the addition of a chair not original to the room. In the chair a period clothed body was added upon which my recently completed forensic/academic study in profile of the James Madison life mask created by John Henri Isaac Browere (1790—1834) in 1825 was attached. The result is a candid moment caught on “film” for eternity!
About Life Masks:
Before photography, life masks were the best way to give us an exact likeness of their subject. Plaster would be applied to the head and sometimes upper torso to create a mold from which a life mask (cast bust) of the person would be created. In addition to being three-dimensional, the faithful transfer process of the life mask creation eliminated the “artistic license” and “sympathetic treatment” employed by many contemporary portrait artists. Thus, using life masks, I am able to complete a forensic/academic study of how the subjects most likely appeared using Adobe Photoshop to add flesh, hair, and other details.
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
J. I. Browere’s made life masks of many famous early Americans, Marquis De Lafayette, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Dolley Madison and James Madison to name a few.
About Your Print:
Your print comes with a certificate of authenticity and was made by a commercial printing service using archival Kodak Professional Endura Premier Lustre paper. My signature on the back is signed with an archival acid free ink pen and the blue logo stamp uses archival acid free ink.
Your print will last as long, if not longer than silver halide photographs under the same conditions. If you display your print in a frame under glass or acrylic board, try to avoid hanging in direct sunlight as the color may fade over time, as do traditional photographs.
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