Object Image

Abraham Lincoln

It is impossible to look at this cast of Abraham Lincoln’s face–gaunt and careworn—and not think that it is a death mask. In fact, it was taken from life on February 11, 1865, by sculptor Clark Mills. Life masks were very popular in the nineteenth century because they created a near-duplicate of the subject’s features. The plaster complements the images of Lincoln that photographer Alexander Gardner captured during that same month. A friend of Lincoln’s commented on the mask’s ability to portray “one on whom sorrow and care had done their worst.” ...
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1865 (cast c. 1917)
17.1 x 20.3 x 29.8 cm
Image and text © National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, 2023

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