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"a previously unknown portrait of exceptional quality"

LINCOLN, ABRAHAM.) GARDNER, ALEXANDER. Portrait of Abraham Lincoln, a vignetted bust portrait once owned by John Hay

Washington: Alexander Gardner, August 9, 1863

Albumen print, retouched in the print, trimmed to oval, 15 x 12 in. Original mahogany frame.

This is the only known example of this highly important large-format photograph of Lincoln, once owned by the President’s private secretary John Hay, taken one month after the Battle of Gettysburg. Lincoln sat for six photographs on August 9, 1863 to inaugurate Alexander Gardner’s new gallery in Washington. “Lincoln had promised to be Gardner’s first sitter and chose Sunday for his visit to avoid ‘curiosity-seekers and other seekers” while on the way to the gallery” (Ostendorf). Lincoln’s secretary John Hay wrote in his diary: “I went down with the President to have his picture taken at Gardner’s. He was in very good spirits.” Six portrait were made at the session, but this example, kept by John Hay for himself, is the only known example.

“From the Gardner Gallery sitting of August 9, 1863 emerges this previously unknown portrait of exceptional quality. It had remained lost, its existence unsuspected by historians until 1969. John Hay, the grandson of Lincoln’s secretary, John Hay, sought identification of the photograph and sent a copy to Lloyd Ostendorf for evaluation. It was clear that somehow this view from the sitting was not distributed commercially by the gallery, but had been retained only by the Hay family” (Ostendorf, Lincoln’s Photographs: A Complete Album, p. 360).

Provenance: John Hay, Lincoln’s secretary and later secretary of state under McKinley.