Brady Portrait of William Pitt Fessenden
(FESSENDEN, WILLIAM PITT.) Mathew Brady Studio. William Pitt Fessenden
New York and Washington: Brady Studio, c. 1860
Albumen print (16 x 9 ½ in.), mounted on contemporary board. Mount soiled and worn. The image is generally in excellent condition.
LINCOLN’S SECOND TREASURY SECRETARY. William Pitt Fessenden, senator from Maine, was an early member of the Republican party and one of its leading figures. As chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Fessenden played a crucial role in the financing of the war for the Union. In July 1864 he succeeded Salmon P. Chase as secretary of the treasury. Fessenden returned to the Senate at war’s end and was “perhaps the leading Republican in the Senate, statesmanlike and experienced as well as a skilled politician able to command respect among radicals and conservatives alike” (ANB).
“Early on, Brady set himself the task of photographing the nation’s leading figures: presidents and military men, business leaders and stars of the stage, writers and artists. Each photograph of a man or woman of mark, displayed in the studio’s reception room, attracted new clients and bore witness to the skill, art, and social standing of ‘Brady of Broadway’ as much as it did to the taste and station of the sitter” (Metropolitan Museum of Art).
This portrait of Fessenden is evidently one of the “published” Imperial portraits issued by Brady. “These ‘published’ Imperial prints were announced in the New York Times on August 11, 1858: ‘Brady has just commenced the publication of a series of imperial photographs. The first of the series is an excellent portrait of John J. Crittenden, of Kentucky’ … At 12 x 9 5/8 inches, they were smaller than Brady’s sumptuous Imperial photographs, and issued on paper mounts engraved with the Brady studio location and, sometimes, with the name of the figure pictured. In presentation and style, they resemble mezzotint portraits of earlier centuries. A reduced step from the custom Imperial portrait, though still a photographic process, this new ‘imperial’ format could be mass-produced by the studio and sold commercially to anyone who might like to own a portrait of a famous American statesman” (New York Historical Society).
This is a fine standing Brady Imperial portrait of a leading figure of Civil War politics.
This portrait is offered with other Brady Imperial portraits of Lincoln’s cabinet as a group. Click here for more details.
Offered as part of the "Team of Rivals" collection, for sale en bloc only