The Father of the Constitution, James Madison sits in his drawing room at Montpelier, Orange County, Virginia
James Madison was known for dressing in dark clothing. His trusted slave, Paul Jennings stated, “I have heard Mr. Madison say, that when he went to school, he cut his own wood for exercise. He often did it also when at his farm in Virginia. He was very neat, but never extravagant, in his clothes. He always dressed wholly in black — coat, breeches, and silk stockings, with buckles in his shoes and breeches. He never had but one suit at a time. He had some poor relatives that he had to help, and wished to set them an example of economy in the matter of dress. He was very fond of horses, and an excellent judge of them, and no jockey ever cheated him. He never had less than seven horses in his Washington stables while President.”1
While visiting with the Madisons and Paul, I snapped this candid photo of James Madison sitting in his drawing room at Montpelier.
James Madison sitting in the drawing room of his Montpelier mansion.
Paul Jennings, continued to tell me more about the former president and his wife, Dolley.
Close up view of James Madison sitting in the drawing room of his Montpelier mansion.
“Mrs. Madison is a remarkably fine woman. She is beloved by every body in Washington, white and colored. Whenever soldiers marched by, during the war, she always sent out and invited them in to take wine and refreshments, giving them liberally of the best in the house. Madeira wine was better in those days than now, and more freely drank.”2
Sepia toned photograph of James Madison sitting in the drawing room of his Montpelier mansion.
“Mr. Madison, I think, is one of the best men that ever lived. I never saw him in a passion, and never knew him to strike a slave, although he had over one hundred; neither would he allow an overseer to do it. Whenever any slaves were reported to him as stealing or ‘cutting up’ badly, he would send for them and admonish them privately, and never mortify them by doing it before others. They generally served him very faithfully. He is temperate in his habits. I don’t think he drank a quart of brandy in his whole life. He eats light breakfasts and no suppers, but rather a hearty dinner, with which he take invariably but one glass of wine.”3
Paul Jennings, body servant of James Madison
Based upon their life masks, Dolley and James Madison standing in the drawing room at their Montpelier home in Orange County, Virginia.
Life Mask Reconstructions
The above images of James Madison are Photoshop compositions using the face of Madison taken from life masks. The life mask was cast from a plaster mold of Madison’s head and upper torso in 1825 by J. I. Browere.
Top Images: Photoshop reconstructed life masks of James Madison. Bottom Images: Life masks of James Madison, cast in 1825 by John Henri Isaac Browere. Madison stated, "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.
James and Dolley Madison life mask reconstruction video
See the time-lapse reconstruction of James and Dolley Madison’s life masks, facial animations, a new enhanced view of James' face, as well as how he might have appeared in daguerreotypes.
What did the Founding Fathers look like? Can we know for certain?
Sources & References:
1,2,3Paul Jennings. “A Colored Man’s Reminiscences of James Madison ” Brooklyn:George C. Beadle., 1865 https://docsouth.unc.edu/neh/jennings/jennings.html (Public Domain)
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)