Life Mask of Abraham Lincoln

Leonard Wells Volk American
Augustus Saint-Gaudens American

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 773

In 1860 Volk made molds of the face and hands of Abraham Lincoln (1809–1865). The life mask reproduces Lincoln’s beardless face as it appeared during his first presidential campaign. The hand (2007.185.1) grips a broomstick, a prop that Lincoln improvised upon Volk’s suggestion that he hold something cylindrical resembling a document. In 1886 Saint-Gaudens, the collectors Thomas B. Clarke and Erwin Davis, and the journalist Richard W. Gilder together purchased the original plaster casts to present to the Smithsonian Institution. To finance the donation, they sold bronze and plaster casts after Volk’s originals, with production supervised by Saint-Gaudens.

Life Mask of Abraham Lincoln, Leonard Wells Volk (1828–1895), Bronze, American

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