Hello Dolley

Brady’s famous Daguerreotype of Dolley Madison.
Scratched and damaged, yet still an invaluable link with America’s past.

from James D. Horan, Timothy O’Sullivan: America’s Forgotten Photographer, 1966

. . .The want of absolute truth manifest in the finest portraits, is thought to be compensated by an ideal beauty, which, if not perpetuating the sitter’s happiest expression, at least suppresses the main defects in his features. Youth is given to age; to the pallid cheek color; brightness to the ordinary eye; and new and fashionable drapery to complete the picture.

The heliographer has none of these advantages in his favor. His work may, and often does disfigure, but it never flatters the human countenance. If, however, an instantaneous process is employed, and a minute portrait is taken with a small lens, or a large one at a remote distance, and is subsequently enlarged to life-size, we shall have absolute truth in the portrait. And who would not prefer an absolutely true portrait of Demosthenes or Cicero, of Paul or Luther, of Milton or of Newton, to the finest representations of them which time may have spared?

Sir David Brewster, quoted in M.A. Root’s The Camera and the Pencil, 1864

Somehow, judging from the wonderful Dolley Madison Project, I suspect that the absolute truth of Brady’s portrait doesn’t quite align with the popular conceptions of Dolley Madison.