Post Lot Text
A historically significant chair utilized by Alexander Gardner in his Washington studio for his famous photographic portraits of a multitude of prominent men including President Lincoln. This renaissance revival armchair was one of 262 commissioned in 1857 to furnish the newly renovated chamber of the House of Representatives in the United States Capitol. The chairs were designed by Montgomery Meigs (1816-1892), Quartermaster General of the Union Army during the Civil War, and produced by the firm of Bembe and Kimmel Company of New York and the Hammitt Desk Manufacturing Company of Philadelphia. In 1859, the chairs and accompanying desks (see next lot) were removed and replaced with a more compact seating arrangement of benches. The furniture was dispersed--by sale or auction is unknown--and Alexander Gardner was able to acquire the chair that would later figure so prominently in many of his photographs.
Abraham Lincoln's November 8, 1863 sitting for Gardner, historically significant because it proceeded his Gettysburg address by a little more than a week, prominently features this same Congressional chair. The chair appears in five of Gardner's photographs from that day. Two of the poses are amongst the most famous of Lincoln. The first, known as the "Big Foot" photograph, shows the president seated in the chair with legs crossed so that one foot is featured prominently in the foreground. Lincoln is reported to have been puzzled by the photo, wondering why his foot appeared "so indistinct and blurred? I am confident I did not move it" (Ostendorf and Hamiltion, Lincoln in Photographs, p. 147). A second pose featured the seated president gazing across the table at his young son Tad. Other prominent individuals who were photographed by Gardner in this chair include General William T. Sherman, Secretary of State Seward, President Andrew Johnson, Admiral David Farragut, Senator Charles Sumner, Vice President Hannibal Hamlin and General Joseph Hooker.
Provenance: Alexander Gardner -- Margaret Gardner, his wife -- Eliza Gardner, his daughter -- Given 1921 to the Church of New Jerusalem. (See notes preceding lot 120).
Exhibited: The Chrysler Museum, Norfolk, Va., an Enduring Interest: The Photographs of Alexander Gardner, 1991-1992.