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|Lincoln and Joseph|
Feb. 13th, 2007 at 12:59 am
A new daguerreotype of Abraham Lincoln has turned up. It’s dated to the early 1840s, which puts it at least six or seven years before the previous holder of the Youngest Lincoln Image title, and thus shows Lincoln as a brash, self-confident young lawyer of around 32. The gaunt, careworn face of Lincoln the president is still years away.
But what’s really significant is that the young Lincoln seems to share an odd fashion statement that pops up frequently in portraits of Joseph – his hair is brushed forward over the ears. I thought Joseph was the only one who ever did that.
Joseph was photographed perhaps once. I say perhaps because it’s clear that there’s been some work on the image – there’s definitely, it seems, a basic daguerreotype in there, but also a bit of touching up. This image, taken in 1844 Nauvoo, dates to within a few years and less than half a state away from that of Joseph’s fellow Illinoisian. Both men were self-made, had gained a degree of confidence in their abilities, confidence that can be seen in each man’s gaze. Both also had a streak of humor and fun that I think glints more in Joseph’s eyes that Lincoln’s.
Both Joseph and Lincoln have been the subject of the occasional artistic makeover. Lincoln we Americans have exalted; he personifies the bloody price of the Republic’s redemption. He is made patriarchal and weathered, the grim lines of experience etched deep into his face. Mormons, though, have smoothed out Joseph’s rough edges; he becomes even more handsome than he might have been, friendly, approachable – the Joseph of a church that emphasizes more than ever the warm benevolence of the family. He is Brother Joseph, and Lincoln is Father Abraham.
Joseph still, though, brushes his hair forward at the ears. I mean, really. Who does that?