The Real Face of Thomas Jefferson Life Mask Print II


Giclee print on archival Kodak Professional Endura Premier Lustre paper. Signed with Certificate of Authenticity.



The Real Face of Thomas Jefferson

Starting with a high-resolution photograph of the Thomas Jefferson life mask created by John Henri Isaac Browere (1790—1834) in 1825; combined with meticulous research into eye color, hair style and color, eyebrows, complexion, etc.; and the magic of Adobe Photoshop this resultant image takes the viewer back to that day in 1825! From his strong brow to his piercing eyes to his tight-lipped expression it is clear that Jefferson is a serious thinker and definitely has his poker face on. What do you suppose he is contemplating?

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.

The casting of Jefferson’s life mask did not go well.

″Jefferson wrote to James Madison of the ordeal on October 18, 1825: I was taken in by Browere. He said his operation would be of about 20 minutes and less unpleasant than Houdon’s method. I submitted therefore without enquiry but it was a bold experiment on his part on the health of an Octogenary [sic], worn down by sickness as well as age. Successive coats of thin grout plaistered [sic] on the naked head, and kept there an hour, would have been a severe trial of a young and hale person. He suffered the plaister [sic] also to get so dry that separation became difficult & even dangerous. He was obliged to use freely the mallet & chisel to break it into pieces and get off a piece at a time. These thumps of the mallet would have been sensible almost to a loggerhead. The family became alarmed, and he confused, till I was quite exhausted, and there became real danger that the ears would separate from the head sooner than from the plaister [sic]. I now bid adieu for ever to busts & even portraits.”

“Jefferson endorsed Browere’s bust, as did James and Dolley Madison when they saw it several days later. Two years later, James Madison wrote that “Browere’s bust in plaster will probably show a perfect likeness.”

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.”

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.

Thomas Jefferson Real Face Life Mask Reconstruction

About Your Print:

Your print comes with a certificate of authenticity and was made by a commercial printing service using 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.

This is a new ready-to-frame print. (FRAME NOT INCLUDED)

Prints ship with 1-5 business days via USPS First Class Mail. Free U.S. Shipping. If for any reason you are not completely satisfied with your print, I will completely refund your order.


Additional information

Print Size

5×7, 8×10, 11×14, 16×20