A Francis Grice Image of Joseph Smith, Jr. or his Doppelganger?

The above-left image is clumsily cropped and horizontally flipped from the image below with the hand of the lady in the picture even more clumsily cropped and superimposed. The above right is an image of a painting said to be Joseph Smith, Jr., and said to have been made from a lost daguerreotype.

This is image #1368 in the Grice Collection of Daguerreotypes in the Library of Congress.
Engraved with an ellipse? You decide. Skeptics should examine the many images of the painted portrait that exist on the internet. The ellipse on the ring is quite obvious. Joseph Smith gave his last discourse, The King Follet Sermon, on April 7, 1844, during which he referred to a ring. see: https://contentdm.lib.byu.edu/digital/collection/RelEd/id/1438/

The only known provenance of Dag #1368 is that it was part of a collection of daguerreotypes purchased from famed photographer Anthony Barboza by the Library of Congress in 1999. Were Francis Grice, Joseph Smith, and Emma Hale Smith all together in the same room in Nauvoo, Illinois, in the spring of 1844?

Please see Francis Henry Grice’s Daguerrean Views – Rod’s Ramblings and Ruminations (genevanotes.com) for background.

4 thoughts on “A Francis Grice Image of Joseph Smith, Jr. or his Doppelganger?

  1. Hello, Rod. As you suggest, there is a high probability that only Francis Grice could have photographed the prophet, Joseph Smith before Smith’s death in 1844, because there were rather few daguerrotypists at that time. However, Smith was also considering a candidacy for the President of the United States, which likely could have attracted another, passing, photographer to Nauvoo, one of the the larger communities in Illinois. Meanwhile, Emma Smith survived her husband, and there is one or more later photographs of her, including at least one attributed to “circa 1844” which claims to show her, and she is holding a baby (David Hyrum Smith, b. 1844?). [ See Wikipedia]. I wonder if the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (RLDS Church) has her Smith wedding ring in its archives, or if a descendant might have it – not that, as shown in the photograph, it is an unusual band.


  2. Hi Tom,
    As usual your observations are astute. (BTW, David Hyrum Smith spent the last 27 years of his life at Elgin State Hospital – just for local color!). He was born a few months after Joseph’s death. I have seen the “baby” image and to my amateur eye it does not look like a daguerreotype, and she looks considerably older. Many women wore their hair parted, just like in both images. Her dress in Dag 1368 looks more “1844” to me than the baby picture attire. I think the baby picture may be a couple decades later, but I know it has been attributed to 1844 by some. An expert should be able to roughly date it, at least by clarifying that it is a daguerreotype. Realistically, if it is not a DAG, it is at least post 1850 and likely post 1860.
    The invention of daguerreotype photography was made public at a meeting of the French Academy of Sciences in 1839. The first practical method to record the world in high fidelity, daguerreotype imagery transformed disciplines in both the arts and sciences [1]. The multi-step process requires a Cu plate; (1) coated with silver and polished to a mirror finish; (2) exposed to halogens (usually iodine); (3) exposed to light within the camera; (4) subjected to mercury vapors; (5) rinsed to remove remaining salts, and finally (6) gilded with gold. Microfocused X-ray fluorescence imaging can be used to refine images and to characterize subtle differences in chemical composition, etc.
    I believe the Grice collection may contain images of other prominent early 1840’s Mormons. Oliver Cowdery is an example. It may be possible to compare the chemical composition to see if the plates have similar chemical signatures, suggesting a common origin.
    Your wedding ring idea is excellent. I squint at the ring, but I am not going to say I can discern any fine details. I do find it significant that the hand and ring made it into the painting.
    Thanks for your thoughts.


    1. Tom-
      Joseph Smith used a gold ring as part of his King Follet Sermon in April 1844 to illustrate the eternal nature of man. (See Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 354.) Sometime after his death in 1844, Emma Smith gave the ring to Alexander Hale Smith, one of their sons. Couple questions: Is this the ring on Emma’s finger? Or did the portraitist include the hand and ring as a reference to the sermon? Or?? I know I said I would not say this, but does in look like there is engraving of the ring in the portrait? For a better image of the portrait see https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Joseph_Smith,_Jr._portrait_owned_by_Joseph_Smith_III.jpg
      There is an (blurry) image of the ring here: From the Prophet’s Life: A Photo Essay (churchofjesuschrist.org)


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