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the Lincoln $5 bill portrait with Lincoln’s signature

(LINCOLN, ABRAHAM.) Anthony Berger. Seated portrait of Abraham Lincoln with a mounted slip signed in full by Lincoln

Washington: Brady Studio, February 9, 1864

Albumen print (8 ⅛ x 6 ½ in.) on original Brady printed mount with 1865 copyright notice. A stain affects the lower left corner of image and mount and the “A” in the signature, some show-through of adhesive under the name “Abraham”, minor spotting to image and mount. Matted and framed. Mounted at the bottom is a slip signed in full “Abraham Lincoln.”

This is a handsome example of one of the most famous Lincoln portraits, the Brady $5 bill photograph. Mounted beneath the portrait is a slip with Lincoln’s full signature “Abraham Lincoln.”

Lincoln walked more than a mile to Brady’s studio for this February 9, 1864 sitting. Brady himself did not operate his cameras during the war years, instead training and employing men including Alexander Gardner and his successor, Anthony Berger, to operate the camera.

Berger made seven photographs of Lincoln in different poses in that session. Here Lincoln sits with his legs crossed, a carte-de-visite on a draped table photograph album beside him. He sits in the ornately carved armchair that Brady obtained from the United States Congress and often used in his portraits.

This fine portrait, the source for the famous $5 bill engraving, is the most important from that long session, which also produced a portrait of Lincoln with his son Tad. Lincoln’s son Robert Todd Lincoln later wrote of the “$5 bill” portrait, “I have always thought the Brady photograph of my father … to be the most satisfactory likeness of him.”

Full, large format prints of this celebrated portrait on the Brady mount are rarely seen. When this portrait is encountered in the market it is almost always trimmed to an oval. The presence of the mounted Lincoln signature, in full rather than the more usual “A. Lincoln,” further distinguishes this fine photograph. We have never seen another example combining this large uncropped image and a full Lincoln signature.

Ostendorf, Lincoln’s Photographs O-92.