Found a new version of a Polk-pic
- complete with hands and spectacles. It is the full version of the oval
picture which I show in my collection of faces. The folks at the Polk
Ancestral Home told me that the man on the oval pic is most probably
not Polk, but when I examined the case again I came to believe that it
is probably Polk after all - just mirror-inverted.
I came to wonder which of the daguerrotypes show dear Jimmy in the
sense of the paintings from life. My theory is that Brady's and Healy's
photographic portraits show Polk in the sense of the "official" Healy
portrait from 1846 (title picture of this group), while the two other
daguerrotypes are inverted. As for the oval picture I'm quite sure, as
for the picture of the two Polks I've still some doubts.
I'm still guessing when the picture with the spectacles was taken. Was
it 1847 as one source stated or shortly before his retirement as
another one says? Or was it taken on Polk's journey home?
The odd thing about the picture is that Polk looks so dishevelled,
while he looks quite tidy on all other likenesses. I guess that it was
taken while Sarah was absent. I cannot imagine that she would have
allowed anyone to picture Jimmy with a shifted collar and unkempt hair.
So I thought that it was taken on his journey home, when he was often
parted from Sarah. The hot weather would explain the look of hair and
collar and the stress of travels and countless exhausting ceremonies
would explain the air of "hardly looking like oneself for exhaustion".
But whence the spectacles if he was asked to let himself daguerrotype
when he attended some kind of party in his honour? Was there anything
to read? Was it just a conventional pose that the daguerrotyper
suggested? Did he in fact hold something else and the spectacles were
drawn by the daguerrotypist, as the hands and spectacles look somewhat
So I wondered whether the picture was perhaps taken when Polk visited
the University of North Carolina at the End of May in 1847. There Sarah
was also often separated from him and the presentation of spectacles
explains with more ease. Else there is a brief account of his visit
that fits the picture quite closely:
President Polk was applauded for his total absence of ostentation, his
sincere and unassuming courtesy. The contrast of the thoughtful,
tranquil expression of his classmate, Thomas J. Green, of Virginia,
looking twenty years younger, with the President's anxious countenance,
his silvered hair and careworn features, denoting incessant toil and
perhaps suffering, was observed. ... The President's Lady, as his wife
was called, was pronounced by all classes to be peculiarly fascinating.
(peculiarly fascinating, how polite. The Missus had struggled through a
serious fit of malaria in the beginning of May. So she might have still
looked a bit frail and pale while she wore a gorgeous outfit and
displayed all her innate and acquired charms. I can imagine certain
Ladies speaking of her as darn ugly, but soooo enchanting - poor dear,
look at her bleary uneven eyes, her beak of a nose, and her overbite,
he must be very fond of her, though, dressing her in Parisian gowns ...
chuckle ...) Could not suppress this excursion, but now back to Jimmy.
The style of the neckwear and collar and the cut of the hair also
suggests that the pic is from 1847, but then Polk looks much older than
on the Brady portrait of 1849. Though Brady certainly glossed over the
deep lines on the forehead the lower part seems to be untouched and
does not show such an air of being troubled as the oval pic.
I cannot make up my mind. Perhaps one of you got an idea.
Else you might enjoy the results of my passion for blending Polk pics
and give your opinion on "which way round?".