3: Or Better Yet

But there are places where the Scannel photo truly lacks: the eyebrows are too thick, the hair is not customarily combed in front of his ears nor parted in the middle, the origins of the touched up facial features are uncertain, the fraternal key fob (above his hands) is not a recognized possession of Joseph Smith’s, etc. These discrepancies needn’t eliminate the Scannel photograph as a possible photo of the prophet, but they are brought up as points of interest wherein an alternative candidate photograph excels:

Spiritus-1 This photograph will here be referred to as the “Spiritus” photo, in that it was first published in a YouTube video by a mysterious channel called Spiritus.TV—’mysterious’ in that their only upload was a brief analysis and “reveal” of the above photo. All inquiries and research into the channel or its owners have so far ended in dead ends except some details they left about themselves: they are not affiliated with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, they are based out of the United Kingdom, and the photo was somehow identified as being Joseph Smith by facial recognition software developed for use with historical portraits.

The Spiritus photo, as described in their video, was said to be discovered in St. Louis, Missouri, along with a photo of a male who appeared to resemble Brigham Young. All other details regarding it remain unknown at this time. It is, however, the best candidate for a photo portrait of the Prophet Joseph Smith to date.

Let’s look at some interesting details:

It may be worth noting that it has a very similar frame to the Scannel photo, which indicates at least that they were taken in the same timeframe if not by the same photographer; that the subject is the same person we cannot conclude on this point of mere ornamentation:

Scannel with Frame


If they are the same subject, the Spiritus one is apparently a fuller man than the Scannel, both in terms of weight and hair. Is the Spiritus subject merely a fuller, healthier Joseph Smith? Or do his physical attributes prove him to be the only real Joseph between them?


joseph faces comp 3
From left to right: Restored Spiritus Photo, Library of Congress Joseph Smith photo, William Major painting of Joseph Smith

In comparing the features of the Spiritus portrait to that of the previously detailed Library of Congress photo submitted by Joseph Smith III, the question of the primacy of the William Major painting of Joseph Smith comes into play: which came first—the photo from which the painting was a copy, or was the photo a copy of the painting? They are too similar to suggest that they are independent creations.

 Reed Simonsen’s research on the painting concludes that it is the product of producing a copy from an original photo, the Library of Congress photo being that original. He even produces evidence that the two images superimposed one over the other do not line up exactly. However, when I attempted the same experiment, the product was quite an exact match:

The Library of Congress photo superimposed over the William Major painting.
The Library of Congress photo superimposed over the William Major painting.

Interestingly, to get the images to line up perfectly, as is demonstrated in the above rendering, the Library of Congress image had to be scaled slightly to compensate for a lower perspective. It is as if the Library of Congress photographer positioned his camera slightly below the painting and aimed his lens upward, producing Simonsen’s cited focus blur on the vest buttons, etc. (see Page 1).

As the Library of Congress photo has many un-photographic qualities to it, we will proceed with the Spiritus photo analysis assuming the William Major painting is a primary original against whose more detailed features we can compare our subject.

 hairlines 2-1

The hairline is consistent with the painting, though William Major may have been reticent to include the grim detail of Joseph’s pulled out hair patches that may be visible in the Spiritus photo. Also note the part in the middle.

eyeses 2

The eyes and temples are most striking: the eyebrows are an exact match, with Joseph’s right eyebrow possessing an thicker bottom triangle and a lighter tapered upper portion; a crease just right of center appears between the eyebrows; the eyelids match, with the Spiritus photo even exhibiting possible damage near the outside (note also the possible scar on Joseph’s left temple); the contour of the temples along where Joseph would comb his hair forward in front of ears follows the same lines.

jaw and cheeks 2

Here the imperfection of a painted subject is perhaps manifest in the William Major painting, as a painter may measure features against one another until the whole is complete, often producing an overall distortion though particular features may appear true to life when examined in isolation. This may explain the steep jaw line exhibited by the William Major painting, whereas Joseph’s jaw line was described by contemporaries as large and square. Other features are consistent, however, including the thicker upper lip with the dipped contour, the substantial chin with a slight turn to Joseph’s left, the dimpled lip corners that denote full and forward cheeks, the same precise upward angle of the nose and exposure of the nostrils, etc.

Joseph Smith Closer

Here is a closer version of the Spiritus photo. I cleaned it up and added color based on the William Major painting’s color pallet. Behold the man:

Joseph Smith in Color

Praise to the man!

I sincerely hope that more information regarding the Spiritus photo comes to light soon. I believe it is a true photograph of the prophet, Joseph Smith.

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