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Abraham Lincoln
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National Portrait Gallery Collection
Object number
Exhibition Label
Alexander Gardner took this portrait of Abraham Lincoln at the last sitting the president gave him, on Sunday, February 5, 1865. That same sitting produced the accidental masterpiece known as the “cracked-plate” portrait. The other photographs from this session had Gardner’s characteristic sharpness and clarity in the president’s face and expression. However, here, the president’s hands were fidgety, as evidenced by the blurring of the eyeglasses and the pencil that he holds as props. From this original image, Gardner and his assistants cleaned up the blurring during post-production editing or retouching, a nineteenth-century version of Photoshop. They also introduced a subtle variation: in some of the prints, instead of spectacles, Lincoln is holding a penknife, with which he would presumably sharpen the pencil.
Credit Line
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
Alexander Gardner, 17 Oct 1821 - 1882
Abraham Lincoln, 12 Feb 1809 - 15 Apr 1865
United States\District of Columbia\Washington
Albumen silver print
Image/Sheet: 8.7 x 5.4 cm (3 7/16 x 2 1/8")
Mount: 10.2 x 6 cm (4 x 2 3/8")
Mat (New): 35.6 × 27.9 cm (14 × 11")
Data Source
National Portrait Gallery