Casts of the Face and Hands of Abraham Lincoln
Original plaster made by Leonard W. Volk, American, 1828 - 1895. Bronze made under the direction of Augustus Saint-Gaudens, American (born Ireland), 1848 - 1907.
In 1858, while attending the famous Abraham Lincoln–Stephen Douglas debates for the U.S. Senate race, sculptor Leonard Volk met Lincoln and persuaded the future president to pose for him. He first made a life cast of Lincoln’s face in April 1860, and two months later—the Sunday following Lincoln’s nomination for president—created casts of the politician’s hands. The artist then used the life mask to create a bust of Lincoln (a plaster version is in the National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C.) and following the president’s assassination in 1865, Volk received numerous orders for the piece. His original life mask also became well known, serving as a model for many Lincoln portraitists.
In 1886, a group of subscribers purchased Volk’s original plaster life mask and casts of Lincoln’s hands for presentation to the United States government. Before being accepted into the collection of the National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., bronze and plaster replicas were made under the direction of American sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens and given to each of the subscribers, one of whom was Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park Art Association. In 1932 the Fairmount Park Art Association made a gift of these objects to this Museum.