LINCOLN, Abraham. GARDNER, Alexander, Photographer. Carte-de-visite photograph signed ("A. Lincoln") as President, backstamp of "Gardner...Washington. D.C.," [taken 9 August 1863]. Albumen photograph, 3 15/16 x 2 3/8 in., neatly mounted on stiff card within double ruled borders, boldly signed in the blank area beneath the image, minor scratch at lower left, verso with remnants of old mount. Hamilton and Ostendorf, Lincoln in Photographs, 0-72D.
PRESIDENT LINCOLN, "IN VERY GOOD SPIRITS," READS THE SUNDAY PAPERS
An historic image, the first taken of the President by Alexander Gardner in his recently opened Washington studio, located at the corner of 7th and "D" Street. It shows the President seated at a marble-topped table, his reading glasses in his right hand, holding large, partially folded sheets of paper in his left hand which rests on the table top. The sheets strongly resemble a folded newspaper, and it seems a certainty that Gardner has here caught Lincoln in the act of reading the Sunday newspapers. The sitting which produced this and six similar images of the President took place on Sunday, August 9, 1863. In some large-format versions, the newsprint, in neat columns, is clearly visible. Lincoln's private secretary, John Hay, noted in his diary under that day: "I went down with the President to have his picture taken at Gardner's. He was in very good spirits" (quoted by Mark Katz, Witness to an Era: The Life and Photographs of Alexander Gardner, p.112).
Given the most recent war news, it is no wonder the President was in good spirits, for the last month had seen resounding, though costly, Union victories at both Gettysburg and Vicksburg, while the Knoxville and Chattanooga campaigns were just entering their early phases. In all the portraits from this day's sitting, Lincoln appears quite relaxed: serious and dignified, grave, but not somber as he appears in some portraits. The image of a relaxed chief executive proved a popular one with the American public, and Gardner evidently sold quite a large number in different formats. This example features a particularly fine, classic signature. We are aware of only one other signed example of this super image (that example, cropped at top, with corners rounded, was sold at Christie's, 16 December 2004, lot 418 $65,725).
Provenance: Douglas Campbell (sale, Christie's, 19 December 2002, lot 320).