What Did the Early American Presidents Really Look Like?
Gilbert Stuart Portraits as a "Rosetta Stone" to the Pre-Photography Era

Krista A. Ehinger & Eric L. Altschuler, MD, PhD


The American painter Gilbert Stuart (1755-1828) painted many prominent individuals, including the first six presidents of the United States, and several of his later subjects were also photographed. We compared these photographs to Stuartís portraits of the same individuals and characterized the differences between Stuartís representations and his subjectsí actual appearances. This allows us to create more photographic likenesses of other Stuart subjects, including individuals who lived before the invention of photography.

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Ehinger, K. A. & Altschuler, E. L. (2011). What did the early American presidents really look like? Gilbert Stuart portraits as a "Rosetta Stone" to the pre-photography era. Perception, 40(1), 91-94.

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How You Can Help

We are always looking for photographs of individuals painted by Gilbert Stuart. If you have a photo of anyone on this list, we would love to hear from you!


This research is supported in part by an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship to KAE.