Was Justice Done to Tom Brady? Amherst Experts Weigh In

Tom Brady has so far played for the New England Patriots his entire 16-year NFL career.
Tom Brady_courtroom
“I want a million bucks” for the sketch, said courtroom artist Jane Rosenberg, quoted in The New Yorker.

Forget about “Deflategate,” the seemingly endless discussion of New England Patriot Tom Brady’s suspension for having “general awareness” of the deflating of footballs. What about Brady’s role in the major art moment last August in Boston? You remember—the drawing of Brady by courtroom artist Jane Rosenberg. Did Rosenberg’s sketch during Brady’s hearing do the handsome quarterback justice?

In the Internet brouhaha immediately after Brady’s hearing, mashups like this one of the Brady sketch with Edvard Munch’s famous Scream (1893, 1910) went viral.

The sketch immediately earned a place in popular art history—right next to (online at least) Munch’s Scream. It also promptly became a hot property. The Sports Museum in Boston wants to borrow it, and potential buyers are bidding for it. Is the artist going to get rich on this?

“I have not decided what I’m going to do with it,” Rosenberg told Time Magazine. “I don’t have a clue what it’s truly worth. This isn’t a normal sketch I’m selling to some assistant US attorney. It might be a different arena entirely — sports memorabilia.”

Should this art event go uncommented on by the Amherst community?

We didn’t think so. We asked Amherst’s experts to weigh in.

Reece Foy

Reece Foy, Class of 2018, quarterback on the Amherst football team: “I love the drawing because I don’t like Tom Brady. If you can get a little chink in his armor, why not try?”

Brady and his wife, supermodel Gisele Bündchen, at the 2014 Met Gala
Brady and his wife, supermodel Gisele Bündchen, at the 2014 Met Gala

DL 10David E. Little, director and chief curator of the Mead Art Museum: “Brady definitely looks bad: a sour expression with gray hair and a rumpled suit aren’t how we’re used to seeing him at all. The courtroom artist might consider Professor Carol Keller’s drawing course this semester.”

Bill McBride

Billy McBride, assistant athletic director-diversity & inclusion/senior coach: “Is it obvious that Jane Rosenberg is not a football fan? Or has she just had enough of the Patriots winning too much for her own consumption? As in, ‘What’s a New England Patriot’s favorite snack?’ ‘Cheetos!’ Implying that behind the glamour is this filling but tasteless identity.”

Rachael AbernethyRachael Abernethy, Class of 2016, history major and member of the Amherst women’s soccer team: “Finally! A work that intersects the realms of art, sport, and politics. It is fully within Rosenberg’s creative agency to highlight certain light and shadows on Brady’s face as she so chooses. Whether her choice accurately illustrates the live figure is an aesthetic judgment I do not make lightly. And yet, here it is: Tom Brady is more handsome in person.”

Popova gouache
This Russian work in the Mead’s collection may help viewers make sense of the Brady sketch. Liubov’ Sergeevna Popova (Russian, 1889–1924), Geometric Composition, ca. 1921, 2001.52

BettinaBettina Jungen, senior curator and curator of Russian art, Mead Art Museum: “Maybe Brady wishes himself into the utopian dimension of Popova’s Composition. He certainly looks as if he wanted to be somewhere else. The artwork’s alternative space, which does not reflect the real world, is an expression of the Russian avant-garde’s energetic tension and hope for new life and art. In the courtroom the party is over. What remains are the angular shapes and the brown paper.”

BaileyBradley Bailey, curatorial teaching fellow, Mead Art Museum: “I wouldn’t call it a faithful rendering. It has a Toulouse-Lautrec air about it. In Toulouse-Lautrec’s [19th-century] pastels people appear monstrous because of the Parisian gaslights, and perhaps the fluorescent bulbs of the courtroom are the 21st-century equivalent.”

Does the Brady sketch have
Does the Brady sketch have “a Toulouse-Lautrec air about it”? One of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec’s (1864-1901) many portraits of French can-can dancer Jane Avril, 1892

Written by Sheila Flaherty-Jones


5 thoughts on “Was Justice Done to Tom Brady? Amherst Experts Weigh In

  1. The medium (chalk on paper) and the speed of the ariist’s hand both lend an impressionistic air, and the use of white pastel reminded me also of Egon Schiele’s way of creating emphasis. The color white is sprinkled throughout the sketch, but most boldly in depicting Brady. White outlines the arrow of Brady’s tie, leading our eye first to his brilliant white shirt collar and from there to his face. The exaggerated planes around his eyes – almost cubist and again evocative of the distortions we see in Schiele’s faces – captures our attention, and we pause to examine them. There’s a downcast and reflective quality to his glance. Is he repentant? But then, the grotesque upward curl of the lower lip can only bring to mind one personality: the Jester. So, is this a courtroom portrait or a visual opinion piece? I think the latter.

  2. All art says more about the artist, than about her subject.

    Oh and by the way, what opera did Tom and Gisele attend at the Met?

    Die Fledermaus (of course).

  3. Tom Brady might look like that, after 30 years in solitary confinement with no sleep allowed–or if an alien invaded his body. And although he looks pathetic in the sketch, the poor soul to his right has it even worse!

  4. Tom is clearly thinking about the havoc he intends to wreak on his NFL opponents this year. I worry more about the guy to his right. Is he in agony or ecstasy? Either answer makes me nervous …

  5. Talk about character assassination, this is image assassination! It takes an artist with a sinister agenda to do this. And yes, the guy to his right is even more disturbing.

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