What did the Founding Fathers Look Like As Young Men? - James Madison
The Life Mask by J. I. Browere
There are no photographs of James Madison; however, John Henri Isaac Browere was able to capture his likeness in the form of a life mask.
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
Browere’s casting process utilized a proprietary plaster mixture that due to its lightweight nature did not distort the facial features of his subject’s face as the common plaster utilized by his contemporaries did. This by all accounts resulted in what was considered an extremely accurate likenesses. Browere met Madison at Madison’s Montpelier home in Orange Virginia in 1825 to make the casting. Madison was 74 years old at the time. James Madison said of his finished life mask, "Per request of Mr. Browere, busts of myself and of my wife, regarded as exact likenesses, have been executed by him in plaister, being casts made from the moulds formed on our persons, of which this certificate is given under my hand at Montpelier, 19, October, 1825."
The initial reconstructed life mask was done using Photoshop and shows how Madison most likely appeared in 1825. Historical evidence shows Madison had started balding by his mid-thirties thus he is depicted with his widow's peak comb-over pulled back into a queue.
Life mask of James Madison Source: Cheryl A. Daniel, with special thanks to Fenimore Art Museum, Cooperstown N.Y.
Madison appears frail. He was a slightly built man and sickly most of his life. He 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.
His advanced age did not make matters any better. His face is lined with wrinkles and his eyes “blepharitic” (i.e. puffiness around the eyes). The life mask further reveals that one side of his face droops significantly indicating Madison may have had a stroke; however, this cannot be ascertained from the historical record.
Photoshop reconstruction of James Madison's life mask, age 74.
In 1828, Margaret Bayard Smith, seeing Madison for the first time in ten years, noted “His little blue eyes sparkled like stars from under his bushy grey eye-brows and amidst the deep wrinkles of his poor thin face. Nor have they lost their look of mischief, that used to lurk in their corners."
The Young Mr. Madison
De-aged reconstructed life mask of James Madison, age 32 with powdered white hair. High quality giclee prints available at The Real Face of Young James Madison Life Mask Portrait Print – James Madison De-Aged
Using Photoshop and AI technology I've attempted to "de-age" the reconstructed life mask of Madison by forty plus years back to the age of 32. This age was chosen because it corresponds with the Charles Willson Peale painted portrait of Madison done of him at that age in 1783. The first order of business was to restore his face to a pre-stroke condition. That completed, the “de-aging” process was like any other. Using Peale’s work as a reference I styled Madison's hair with loose bangs similar to the portrait. Madison's hair at this stage of life would have been chestnut brown, but he powdered his hair white in the style of the day. Portraits of the younger Madison also show him with dark eyebrows.
Side by side view of Madison age 32 and 74.
Just seven years later, on June 8, 1789, James Madison addressed the House of Representatives and introduced a proposed Bill of Rights to the Constitution.
Eleven years later he would marry Dolley Payne Todd.
Charles Willson Peale's 1783 portrait of James Madison Source: Wikepedia and the de-aged life mask of James Madison.
Side by side views of the reconstructed life masks of James Madison