Casts of Abraham Lincoln's Face and Hands

Description
Chicago artist Leonard Volk produced this plaster life mask of Abraham Lincoln in April 1860. Volk made the casts of Lincoln’s hands on May 20, two days after the Republican Party nominated him for the presidency. Lincoln’s right hand was still swollen from shaking hands with supporters. To steady his hand in the mold, Lincoln went out to the woodshed and cut off a piece of broom handle. Volk later placed the piece of handle in the cast displayed here.
In 1886 Volk’s son sold the casts of Lincoln’s face and hands to a group that proposed having the sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens make a limited set of replicas.
In 1888 the 33 supporters of this project presented Volk’s personal copies of the life mask and hands, along with bronze replicas produced by Saint-Gaudens, to the U.S. government for preservation. The donation was made on the condition that “the original plaster casts should never be tampered with.” Any future casts could only be made from the bronze replicas.
Gift of the Thirty-three Subscribers, 1888
Location
Currently not on view
Object Name
plaster casts
date made
1860
depicted (sitter)
Lincoln, Abraham
artist
Volk, Leonard Wells
maker
Volk, Leonard Wells
Physical Description
plaster (overall material)
Measurements
mask: 7 in x 8 1/2 in x 9 in; 17.78 cm x 21.59 cm x 22.86 cm
right hand: 3 5/8 in x 5 1/4 in x 6 1/8 in; 9.1948 cm x 13.335 cm x 15.5956 cm
left hand: 2 3/4 in x 4 1/4 in x 6 5/8 in; 6.985 cm x 10.795 cm x 16.8148 cm
ID Number
COLL.VLKCST.005005
accession number
20084
subject
Government, Politics, and Reform
Political Campaigns
Selections from the Abraham Lincoln Collection
See more items in
Political History: Political History, Presidential History Collection
Selections from the Abraham Lincoln Collection
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
Gift of Thirty-three Subscribers, 1888
Related Publication
Rubenstein, Harry R.. Abraham Lincoln: An Extraordinary Life
Additional Media

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