I present three resolutions of the same image for your viewing pleasure. Click the images or links below, which will open up a new page with a larger image, then click the larger image, wait for it to load, and then you can click the image again to make it even larger. The three resolutions to choose from are 200 dpi, 300 dpi and 600 dpi.
First the 200 dpi scan:
Next, the 300 dpi scan:
Finally, the 600 dpi scan:
A color photograph of the daguerreotype is found in the book, Retratos Quase Inocentes. The actual daguerreotype is at the Paulista Museum of the University of Sao Paolo, Brazil.
Original Post Follows
Years ago I was working at a book distributor of Latin American art books as a cataloger. What this meant was that virtually every book that came in went through my hands first. Now, I know both English and Spanish, so that job wasn’t too hard, but occasionally, we’d get a book from Brazil, which, of course, was written in Portuguese.
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.
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.
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.
I made (not very good) photocopies of the page on the company copier, took them home, and showed them to a family member, to see what she thought. She thought it did look like Smith. I then contacted Salt Lake City, calling them up, and told them what I had found and what I thought it might be. The lady I spoke to said that they were no longer acquiring that type of item and weren’t interested. She suggested I go through my local leadership. So, I took the photocopies I had made and showed them to my bishop, asking him who it looked like. He said it looked like one of the Smith brothers. I told him I thought it was Joseph and that it should be followed up, but that Salt Lake wanted nothing from me and said to go through the local leadership. He said to take the copies to his first counselor and he’d take care of it. I took the copies to the first counselor and left it at that. Months later I approached the first counselor and asked what happened. He didn’t recall the incident and didn’t have the copies! (The bishop had forgotten about it, too.) By this time, though, the book had been sold and I couldn’t make more copies (and I had not saved a copy for myself.)
Nevertheless, I had kept the name and info of the book in question, for I knew that the daguerrotype was sitting in someone’s collection somewhere in Brazil. I even tried contacting Brazilian saints to go and check out the exhibition and find out information about it, but could not make contact with anyone willing.
I shelved the whole thing, finally, figuring that if church headquarters and local leadership wasn’t interested in it, then that’s that. At least I had gotten a good look at the prophet, if it was, indeed, him.
Recently, though, I found out that it was being exhibited again in a Brazilian museum. However, I cannot contact the museum myself, as I do not know Portuguese. If, therefore, you want to help, and you know Portuguese, please translate the following email for me, which I will send along:
Subject: Inquiry about one of your exhibits
Body of Message: To the Director of the Museu Paulista da Universidade de São Paulo:
Hello! I’d like to make an inquiry about the Coleção Carlos Eugênio Marcondes de Moura (retratos fotográficos). I have read the book Retratos Quase Inocentes by Carlos Eugenio M. de Moura and I noticed that one of the daguerrotypes (early type of photograph) was of an unknown individual whose likeness very much resembles that of Joseph Smith, the founder of the Mormon religion (the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.) That I know of, there is no known daguerrotype of Joseph Smith, but you may have in your collection the only one of him. The daguerrotype in question came out of New York City around the year 1844, according to Carlos Eugenio’s book, and was colorized.
I am writing to you to alert you to this possibility, as, if it is indeed of Joseph Smith, you are sitting on a very rare artifact that the Mormon church would be extremely interested in. Please confirm that you do have the daguerrotype in question in your collection.
Addendum – Saturday, March 22, 2008
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.
Addendum – Monday, March 24, 2008
I just got off the phone with Cecilia Oliveira of the Paulista Museum of the University of Sao Paulo. She spoke Spanish, thankfully, and I was able to tell her that I believed I could name the unknown man in one of the portraits found in the book Retratos Quase Inocentes. She told me to email her and explain everything, which I did. Apparently, the exhibit is no longer at the museum. I am sure, though, that she can easily locate the portrait. I’ll post a report of whatever I receive from her when I get it.
In case anyone wants to do their own investigative work, and especially if you know Portuguese, the number to the museum is + 55 + 11 + 6165 – 8000 (Country Code = 55, City Code = 11, Number = 6165 – 8000.) Their email address is firstname.lastname@example.org
There is a one hour difference in time between New York and Sao Paolo. (When it is 9 a.m. in New York, it is 10 a.m. in Sao Paolo.) The museum is open from at 9 a.m. – 4: 45 p.m. Good luck.
Addendum – Monday, March 24, 2008
Okay, as I’m now in the mindset of tracking down this daguerrotype and showing it to the church, at least to those who visit this page, I’ve found the web site of Carlos Eugenio M. de Moura. He didn’t used to have a web site, but now he does. So, I just now dropped him an email and we’ll see if I get any response…
Addendum – Tuesday, March 25, 2008
Mr. Moura was gracious enough to respond to my email. It turns out he speaks English. He has confirmed that the daguerrotype in question is, in fact, at the Museu Paulista – Universidade de São Paulo. He also gave me information on where and when he acquired it. He has also given me the name of the person at the museum in charge of the collection. I guess I’ll be making another phone call to Brazil tomorrow…
Addendum – Wednesday, March 26, 2008
Apparently, not all of the photocopies I made were lost. There was one copy that I showed (and apparently gave) to my mother. When I talked to her today about that picture I showed her years ago, she said that she still had it and proceeded to go to a file cabinet and produce the saved photocopy. It was filed under “Special Papers.”
I am now producing scanned images of the photocopy, which you can view at the top of this article. Hopefully, the museum will send me a color scan of the original. If and when I get it, I’ll upload it. Still, you should be able to tell a lot from what you see here.
One correction: upon looking over the photocopy today, I discovered that my recollection of the daguerreotype coming out of New York in 1844 was off by one year. It actually left New York in 1845.
Although I have something to go on to track down the history of the daguerrotype, thanks to Mr. Moura, without a provenance, the Church Historical Department probably won’t even look at it, according to some opinions. However, there may be a way around this. If you view the above images, and think it may be the missing picture of the Prophet, write, call, email or visit in person the Church Historical Department, historians, your bishop, stake president and everyone. If they are flooded with “demands” of making an inquiry and investigation about this particular image, which it might be easy to trace, they may assign someone to track it down and we can find out if it is, indeed, the Prophet.
Addendum – Friday, March 28, 2008
The Church Historical Archives – I arranged to have the 600 dpi scan emailed to the church historical archive on the 26th and this time the lady on the phone was interested in receiving the image. As yet, though, the archive has not emailed back a response.
Museu Paulista – Universidade de São Paulo – Cecilia Oliveira of the museum never responded to the emails that I sent her per her request. However, on the 27th (yesterday) I sent a detailed email to the contact person at the museum that Mr. Moura gave me, again asking for a color scan either to be sent to me or posted on the museum web site. Today I received an email response. They will be sending me a “reference copy of this portrait (low resolution), in the next week, and also the museum proceedings for having a copy and the rights for uses.”
Addendum – Monday, April 7, 2008
This afternoon I sent an email to the curator at the museum because I hadn’t received the promised low-res color scan. Tonight I received a response along with the expected image. Apparently, though, I have to email someone else to learn how to buy a high resolution image and also the rules for usage.
I also learned that the Moura Daguerreotype (which is what I will call it from now on) was purchased by the museum in 2003, along with Mr. Moura’s entire collection. It does not appear that the museum has done any inspection of the daguerreotype to determine if there is anything written on it, as they just thought of it as an anonymous daguerreotype portrait until I mentioned its similarity to J.S. Now they are very interested in learning its origins (understandably) and wish to be informed of any progress in this area.
Addendum – Tuesday, April 8, 2008
I sent an email yesterday inquiring about a high-res scan and rules of usage, but I still haven’t received a response, so I’m going to assume that permission was already granted to post the low-res color scan on a web site, which I’ve now done at the top of this post. As I wasn’t prohibited from doing so and as they understood that that was my intention, this is the assumption I’m going on. If it turns out I’m wrong, I’ll remove it.
Addendum – Monday, April 14, 2008
The museum is very keen on finding out the origins of the daguerreotype. They are going to analyze it and photograph it in high resolution to determine if there are any markings on it, whatsoever. They plan on providing me a scan of their photographs. (It may cost me some money, though.)
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.
Addendum – Friday, April 25, 2008
The museum sent me an email tonight. It is going to cost me some dough to get them to make a high resolution scan of the daguerreotype. The email was kind of in broken English, so I’m not really sure whether I need to send $75 USD or $50 USD, transferred to their bank account. It will be R$ 120.00. That much I know. I’m not ready to dish out that dough right now. If anyone wants to put forth the money, let me know and I’ll give you the museum contact information that I have and you can obtain a high-res image to post on the Internet. The permissions will be very restrictive: just putting it on a web site page, not in an article or in a book. If someone comes forth and does this, I’ll link to the image from this blog.
Addendum – Monday, June 23, 2008
As I’m now ready to pay for a high-res scan of the dag, I emailed the museum last week and also telephoned, but no one responded to my email, nor was I able to get anyone who spoke English or Spanish on the phone. I will continue to resend the email until I finally get a response.
Addendum – Thursday, June 26, 2008
Yesterday I received an email from the museum contact. She stated that she has been on vacation (and still is) and hasn’t been checking her emails. As I had made some requests concerning the high resolution scan, she indicated that she didn’t know the answer to those questions, but would ask those who did know and forward their responses to me. I’ll post more info as I get it.
Next Joseph Smith article: Romans 13: 1-7 and Joseph Smith