“Portrait of a Young Man.”
This is the second in a series of articles on Abraham Lincoln in the bicentennial year of his birth.
In 1987, Albert Kaplan, who was then living in Paris, sought the opinion of Dr. Claude N. Frechette, a plastic and reconstructive surgeon at the American Hospital in Paris, to examine a daguerreotype Kaplan believed was the first known photographic image ever made of the youthful future-president Abraham Lincoln.
As WND reported, Kaplan purchased the daguerreotype in 1977 from a group of 100 being sold by an art gallery on 57th Street in New York City. The sales receipt described the daguerreotype simply as “Portrait of a Young Man.”
Frechette presented his findings in a 13-page footnoted forensic report entitled “The Kaplan Daguerreotype of Abraham Lincoln.” It has been archived on a website Kaplan created for research materials on Lincoln and the daguerreotypes that he has collected over the past three decades.
“The evidence speaks for itself,” Frechette concluded after an extensive analysis. “The nature and substantial number of identical characteristics of the man in the Kaplan daguerreotype, and those of Lincoln, tell us profoundly that the young man in the Kaplan daguerreotype is Abraham Lincoln.”
At the start of his analysis, Frechette described the Kaplan daguerreotype as “a print of an exceptionally high quality, 19th century daguerreotype of a robust, confident-looking and smartly dressed young man.”
Admitting the examination was of a 150-year old case, Frechette explained, “The most objective approach in examining a century-and-a-half old image seemed to be that of a plastic surgeon who evaluates pre- and post-operative photographs and anthropomorphic data of patients with cranio-facial deformities.”
Since both the Kaplan daguerreotype taken in the early 1840s and the Meserve #1 daguerreotype image made in 1848 feature the left side of Lincoln’s face, Frechette selected for close scrutiny 15 of the known Lincoln images with poses that also featured the left side of his face.
Particularly useful because of the angle of Lincoln’s head in the pose was a photograph made by an unknown photographer at Matthew Brady’s gallery in Washington, D.C., taken around 1862.
Frechette re-photographed the three images and adjusted their sizes to standardize the distance between the pupils in Lincoln’s eyes.
He then began a detailed examination of the features in each of the three photographs, concluding that the vertical dimensions of the mandible, maxilla, nose length and the positions of the orbits of the face shown in the Kaplan daguerreotype were the same as those of the face of Abraham Lincoln.
“Lincoln clearly had a unique face with a large forehead, a penetrating gaze, prominent cheek bones, a strong nose and a well-outlined jaw,” Frechette wrote. “The moles on his face were also characteristic features.”
In addition to the measurements Frechette made of Lincoln’s facial features, he noted the similarity in facial characteristics, among which are the following:
- Regarding the mole on Lincoln’s right cheek, Frechette wrote: “A faint circular shadow appears at the lower portion of the middle third of the right nasolabial crease, which is the precise location of Lincoln’s characteristic nevus (prominent right mole) seen in later Lincoln images.
- In the Kaplan daguerreotype, the hair appears to be dark and thick. The style is identical to that worn by Lincoln in his early and late portraits. There is a characteristic “tuft” on the right, above the ear. The top of the left ear is totally covered by hair that is purposely combed forward, as it is in many Lincoln photographs.
- The forehead is broad and high, and the hairline in the left temporal region is also identical to those in later photographs.
- The eyebrows are heavy and have two different hair patterns, similar to the eyebrows in later photographs of Lincoln. The medial (inner) portion is dark and linear whereas the lateral (outer) half is more bushy. The left eyebrow, the one fully seen, extends over the entire length of the superior orbital rim.
- The philtral columns (the edges of the vertical groove in the upper lip) are well marked and extend to the base of the nose in the Kaplan daguerreotype, a prominent feature in Lincoln photographs.
- In the Kaplan daguerreotype, the left half of the upper lip is somewhat thicker than the right – another prominent feature in Lincoln photographs.
Frechette’s detailed discussion of facial features regarding the lips, cheeks and ears are presented in his paper archived on the LincolnPortrait.com website.
Frechette found important similarities when examining Lincoln’s eyes.
At the age of 10, Lincoln was kicked by a horse, sustaining a major head trauma on the left side, with a loss of consciousness. As a result, Lincoln suffered from diplopia (double vision) and exophoria (outward deviation) of the left eye, both due to partial paralysis of the small eye muscles.
Frechette noted three fairly technical points regarding Lincoln’s eyes, which he considered important in deriving his conclusion that the young man of the Kaplan daguerreotype was Lincoln:
- The gentleman in the Kaplan daguerreotype has a rare condition, bilateral ptosis (drooping eyelids), evident in many photographs of Lincoln.
- Two other findings are characteristic: the lateral extension of the free border of the upper lid beyond the outer corner of the eye (lateral commissure), and the well-defined upper and lower superficial heads of the medial canthal tendon, which attaches the inner corner of the eye commissure. The upper segment is easily seen in all Lincoln portraits, whereas the lower branch is only occasionally seen because of shadows or poor photographic depth-of-field. Photographic presentations of these features are rarely seen in pictures of individuals, but are seen in known Lincoln portraits and in the Kaplan image.
- There is a phenomenon known as Hirschbert’s test of corneal light reflex, a white dot seen in both eyes that reflects the prime source of illumination. Usually the dots are located in the same spot in both eyes (with regard to the iris, or “black of the eye”). However, in the Kaplan, and in the other Lincoln images, this is not true. The left eye’s gaze is in fact slightly more lateral, placing the dot in that eye toward the inside.
Kaplan noted that several Lincoln contemporaries recorded their observations of the deep-set nature of Lincoln’s eyes, a characteristic Kaplan found as well in his daguerreotype.
Frechette also commented that numerous accounts have revealed that Lincoln underwent a noticeable change in his physical appearance beginning in January 1841, as a result of the grave emotional crisis that coincided with his reported failure to go through with his scheduled marriage to Mary Todd, leaving her literally waiting for him at the altar.
“This emotional crisis, just one of a series of such episodes to plague him throughout his life, was the cause of Lincoln losing a considerable amount of weight,” Frechette wrote.