Facial comparison analysis

Is this miniature portrait painting a young Abraham Lincoln?





A Miniature Portrait Painting

Subject Unknown

Comparison Diagram of Miniature Portrait to Photographs of

Abraham Lincoln

Below are some excerpts from the comparison report:

This report is a facial image comparison. It is to determine the likelihood that a miniature portrait painting of an unknown male could be a young Abraham Lincoln. In this comparison, we are confronted with one major obstacle. The comparison is being made between a painting and known photographs of Lincoln. Compounding the problem, none of the available photographs of Lincoln are at the same perspective as the subject in the miniature portrait. Fortunately, there are a few photographs with a similar perspective, which can be used to make some observations. I will apply a facial image comparison technique to help with these observations (see attached diagram). Another factor to consider is the "artistic license" premise. These stylistic distortions may affect the appearance of a subject. It must be noted. It is impossible to make a definitive result as it relates to a positive identification because of the above factors. Furthermore, an exclusionary result can occasionally be more definitive. Since one strong element of dissimilarity that can not be explained by other means would dictate an exclusionary outcome. Additionally, this report should be considered in its entirety.

The skill level of the artist is an important issue in this comparison. Without other examples of this artist's portraits, it is difficult to determine the artist's level of skill. Therefore, his ability to render a likeness of a subject is unknown. For the purpose of this comparison, we will assume. This artist possessed average skills. If we assume, the artist was unskilled. It would reinforce a position that the portrait is an unsuccessful rendering of Lincoln. Since at first appearance, it does not resemble Lincoln. However, since the painting does show a degree of artistic talent, we cannot make this assumption. If the artist were highly skilled, then we must conclude that the miniature painting is most definitely not Lincoln. A skilled portrait artist will use his artistic abilities to capture the greatest likeness as possible. The artist may apply his "artistic license" to flatter the client by down playing undesirable characteristics. However, it is even more important for the artist to capture a strong likeness to the subject. This is clearly illustrated with the "Ink Print" to "Photo 2" comparison (see Comparison 2). In this example, the artist stylized Lincoln without loosing a strong likeness. However, in defense of the creator of the miniature, the artist may not have been aware of the classic Abraham Lincoln "look" at that time.

For the purpose of the actual comparison, I have chosen to use four images labeled as follows: (1) the Miniature, (2) Photo 1, (3) Photo 2, and (4) the Ink Print (see attached diagram.) The first point of comparison is the facial proportion. The reason people look the way they do depend greatly on their facial proportions. These proportions do change with age. These aging trends must be considered during the comparison. To get the proper alignment between the images, I have lined up the subjects' pupils (Line A). This proportion is an accepted constant.

Once this is done, there are several obvious proportional differences. The length of the nose is clearly longer on the miniature (Line C.) This would be the opposite of the normal aging trend. As a person ages, their nose gets larger. The top of the head is also a problem when considering proportions (Line D). Lincoln's forehead is much longer than that of the miniature. This is also contrary to the normal proportional aging trend. As one gets older the face appear to occupy more space on the head, which ultimately gives a shorter appearance to the forehead. Line F illustrates that the girth of the ear is not the same. This could be attributed to the angle of the photograph. However, it is still distinctively smaller on the miniature. These are all significant dissimilarities. Despite these contradictions, there are some proportional similarities. The individual proportions of the mouth, chin (Line E) and jaw are very similar. The nose width is consistent between the images. To better illustrate the importance of these proportional points of reference, a comparison is also made between the ink print to photo 2 and the ink print to photo 1 (see Diagram.) When these facial reference points are compared, it is revealed. The proportions align is almost perfectly, which would be expected from a skillfully painted portrait as well.

The second area of comparisons is the shape and character of the facial features. The facial feature characteristics of the face change with age. The most significant changes occur between the early years of life and young adult. There are also significant changes during old age. This miniature painting would depict Lincoln at approximately 25 years of age. The subject should already exhibit his adult appearance. The portrait subject's appearance does not clearly depict Lincoln's character. Keeping this in mind, I will compare the individual features of both men. The overall shape of the subjects' heads is similar. The square jaw, prominent cheek bones and cleft chin are clear similarities. However the structure of Lincoln's sunken cheeks is a consistent element in all the images of Lincoln. The subject in the miniature is lacking this feature. This is a significant difference.

When comparing the eyes, the general shape of the eyes is similar. However, the eyes in the miniature are too large. Both subjects exhibit heavy upper eyelids. Although it is not absolutely clear, there appears to be a slight askew or laziness of the left eye on both subjects. The short slightly upturned left eyebrow is also a similar feature with both subjects. The unknown subject's eyes and brow structures in the miniature portrait are missing a very telling characteristic of the Lincoln face. The unknown subject does not have Lincoln's deep-set eyes. This is a significant difference. An artist would not have left this characteristic out and this characteristic would be fully formed at 25 years of age. The nose shape is similar although not exact. The strongest similar feature is the shape of the mouth and the structure around it. The lip shape, the philtrum, and the muzzle area are almost identical on both men.

Another important problem feature is the ears (See Diagram.) The ears were used for identification in law enforcement prior to the discovery of fingerprints. They are still effective tools for comparisons. As mentioned earlier, the miniature's ear appears smaller than Lincoln's. Although the miniature depicts a partially covered ear, it clearly exhibits a smaller ear canal then Lincoln. Finally, the miniature is missing Lincoln's tell tale mole. However, this feature may not have been as apparent in his younger years.

In conclusion, it is impossible to make a definitive result as it relates to a positive identification and as an exclusionary tool. It is also challenging. Due to the facts mentioned earlier. Nevertheless, there were some similarities between the two men. However, there were many more significant differences also revealed. Considering the totality of this report, it is highly unlikely the subject of the miniature painting is Lincoln.

Please note: A facial image comparison analysis is based solely on the images used in the comparison and the conclusion should be considered an opinion. The provenance of the image in question generally does not play a significant role in the analysis.

Stephen Mancusi

Learn More

Forensic Art

Copyright © 2000 Stephen Mancusi. All Rights Reserved.