On loan to The Met The Met accepts temporary loans of art both for short-term exhibitions and for long-term display in its galleries.

A Burial Party, Cold Harbor, Virginia

John Reekie American
Printer Alexander Gardner American, Scottish

Not on view

Few of the photographs in the Sketch Book evoke the intense sadness of A Burial Party, Cold Harbor, Virginia, one of the seven photographs Gardner included by the still-obscure field operative John Reekie. It is the only plate in the second volume that shows corpses, here being collected by African American soldiers. Four soldiers with shovels work in the background; in the foreground, a single laborer in a knit cap sits crouched behind a bier that holds the lower right leg of a dead combatant and five skulls—one for each member of the living work crew. Reekie’s atypical low vantage point and tight composition ensure that the foreground soldier’s head is precisely the same size as the bleached white skulls and that the head of one of the workers rests in the sky above the distant tree line. It is a macabre and chilling portrait—literally a study of black and white—that is as memorable as any made during the war.

A Burial Party, Cold Harbor, Virginia, John Reekie (American, active 1860s), Albumen silver print from glass negative

Due to rights restrictions, this image cannot be enlarged, viewed at full screen, or downloaded.

Open Access

As part of the Met's Open Access policy, you can freely copy, modify and distribute this image, even for commercial purposes.


Public domain data for this object can also be accessed using the Met's Open Access API.