What did our founding fathers really look like?

February 10th, 2011

Long before Photoshop, painters of Presidential portraits–Gilbert Stuart in particular–touched them up, and made the subject look more glamorous. But what if we could un-photoshop those portraits and figure out what they really looked like? Eric Altschuler may have figured it out.

From Science Magazine:

With the help of graduate student Krista Ehinger of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Altschuler spent months on the Internet tracking down six photographs of people Stuart had also painted, including Webster, Quincy Adams, John Collins Warren, and Josiah Quincy. The researchers drew computer outlines of the faces in the portraits and in the photos, measuring the differences between the two. That gave them a sense of how Stuart’s artistic style differed from reality. Fuller cheeks and higher eyebrows, for example, tend to mark a Stuart portrait. The duo then created a computer algorithm that took an average of the portrait and the painting. They applied the method to portraits of the presidents who lived before photography, effectively subtracting Stuart’s signature changes.

Here are pics of George Washington, John Adams, John Quincy Adams, and Daniel Webster:

They look pretty similar to me.

H/T Gizmodo