Friday, February 7, 2014

The Real Face of Joseph Smith the Prophet

Found in the book, Retratos Quase Inocentes
 I came across this daguerreotype that very well could be the only picture we have of the prophet Joseph Smith. I have seen other photos believed to be of the prophet Joseph Smith but to me they look nothing like the death mask or paintings. This picture - at first glance I truly felt it was him. It is an original photo of an unknown honorable man from New York, about 1844.

The blog where I found this picture is  in which the author of the blog describes where the picture came from:
photo copy of daguerrotype from above

Painting by Alvin Gittins
One (fateful?) day, a curious book was placed in my hands. It was a Brazilian book about a museum exhibition of early daguerrotypes. (Daguerrotypes were an early type of photograph.) I flipped through the pages to get a feel for the book, which had, of course, lots of pictures, before I started writing my summary of its contents. I admit, the old pictures were interesting to look at and I may have taken more time than I should have, going through each and every page instead of skipping here and there, but it turned out to be just the thing I needed to do. I turned a page and suddenly was face-to-face with the strangest daguerrotype I had ever seen.

Sculpted by DJ Bawden in 1981, original forensic bust
Unlike the other pictures, which were placed several to a page and had very short text descriptions, this particular daguerrotype was placed on the entire left-hand page and the author of the book used the entire opposite page to write about it. It was obvious that this daguerrotype was considered worthy of more notice than the others. And it did stand out, for it was colorized and set into a frame with a hinged cover, so that it could be closed and carried around and then flipped open to show to people. But the most startling aspect of it was that it appeared to be Joseph Smith himself.

Exact dimensional sketch from a photograph 
I tried my best to read the Portuguese text (using my knowledge of Spanish) and determined that the daguerrotype was acquired from New York in 1844, but nothing else was known about it or its subject. The author of the book proceeded to analyze the pose, dress and face of the man and the exquisite sharpness and quality of the daguerrotype (it was the best preserved of all those in the book), plus the way it was framed, etc., and he came to the conclusion that the man must have thought he was something really special and had a commanding look about him. Perhaps he was a congressman or someone else in authority, etc.

He eventually tracks down the man who bought the photo and writes: 

Mr. Moura has said that he acquired the daguerreotype from the Armory Show in New York City in 1966. He paid 5 or 10 dollars for it. He looked it over himself, but did not see any maker’s marks on it. By comparison with other daguerreotypes, and based on the hair style, collar, suit, etc., he put it at circa 1845. As he acquired it from New York City, it is listed as: New York, c. 1845. He also has confirmed that it is an original daguerreotype, not a copy.

Even more stunning he writes:

A couple of days ago I stumbled upon a blog post entitled, Is this Joseph Smith?, which contains a quote by historian Will Bagley, who said, “Smith recorded having his picture taken in 1844.” Now, I wasn’t aware that Joseph Smith wrote down that he got his picture taken in 1844. I find the fact that the daguerreotype I saw came out of New York in 1844 to be awfully coincidental.

Front and side view of Joseph's death mask compared with photo

It turns out that he was unsuccessful at generating any interest from church leadership to investigate the picture. I'd like to know what you think? I think it looks 100% like Joseph's death mask.


1 comment:

Tiffanie said...

Very cool! Thanks for sharing, and I agree with you that this looks more like what I imagine than any other pictures/drawings I've seen.