LINCOLN, Abraham. BRADY, Matthew, publisher. Oval portrait photograph of Lincoln and his son "Tad," signed ("A. Lincoln & Son") as President, taken by Anthony Berger in Brady's Washington D.C. studio on 9 February 1864. Hamilton & Ostendorf, Lincoln in Photographs, O-93, pp. 182-183 and 254-255. [With:] MATILE, Gustave E.. Autograph letter signed ("G.E. Matile") to C. M. Ghormley, New York, N.Y., 21 July 1865. 1 page, 4to. Presenting the photograph to his friend.
Oval albumen photograph on original oval mount (8½ x 6½ in., including mount), pale mat-burn from original frame (in which the photo was preserved until 1985), otherwise IN VERY FINE CONDITION: the image clear and sharp, with fine detail, the ink of Lincoln's inscription very strong.
"A. LINCOLN & SON": BRADY'S POIGNANT IMAGE OF THE PRESIDENT AND HIS TEN-YEAR-OLD SON THOMAS ("TAD")
One of the most popular images of Lincoln and the Lincoln's youngest son, Thomas or "Tad," who was 10 years old at the time. The image was frequently reproduced in various sizes by Brady and in many cases copied by unauthorized photographers. At Brady's studio, Lincoln seated himself in an armchair and placed a large album of carte-de-visites on his lap; Tad--who for the occasion had clearly been dressed in his best clothes (including watch fob and chain)--stood to Lincoln's left while they studied the album. In unretouched examples, the album's brass clasps and the cartes themselves, mounted four to the page, may be clearly discerned. Lincoln expressed concern that the album might be mistaken for a lectern-size Bible, and told Noah Brooks that the picture might be considered "a species of false pretence," even though "it was a big photograph album which the photographer, posing the father and son, had hit upon as a good device...to bring the two sitters together." Just as Lincoln feared, after his death some versions were carefully retouched in order to make the album appear to be a large Bible. As one of the best-known "domestic" images of Lincoln it was reproduced by Harper's Weekly and copied by many artists and lithographers (see Holzer, Boritt and Neely, The Lincoln Image, pp.174-175, figs.82-86).
Lincoln is known to have signed only two large-size prints of the portrait of himself and "Tad," as related in the accompanying letter from Gustave E. Matile, Undersecretary to Lincoln's private secretary John Hay, to his friend Charles M. Ghormley ("Lately of the Secretary of War's office"). Matile writes "allow me to present you with one of the two likenesses given me by our dear late President, Lincoln...I know that I cannot dispose of it more satisfactorily...than by giving it to one whom I know to have been an admirer of the many good qualities and noble heart of our late President, only second to George Washington. The signature at the bottom was written by his own hand as he gave it to me." (The other photograph Lincoln signed for Matile is in an institutional collection.)
While Lincoln obligingly signed a considerable number of the many small-format carte-de-visite portraits of himself, the large-format albumens by Brady and Gardner are relatively rare, and signed examples may safely be termed very rare. This touching image with the highly unusual inscription is one of only four signed oval portraits that have been sold at auction in the last quarter century:
1. Oval, c.1858 by R. Cole (sale, Hamilton Galleries, 12 May 1977, lot 150, $4,000; offered again, Sotheby's, 31 October 1985, lot 152, $19,000).
2. The present oval, 1864. Inscribed "A.Lincoln & Son." Collection of Mrs. Philip D. Sang (sale, Sotheby's, 27 March 1985, lot 212, $95,000).
3. Oval, 1861. Inscribed to Lucy G. Speed (sale, Sotheby's, 1 November 1993, lot 130, $160,000).
4. Oval, 1861. Inscribed and signed. Victor and Irene Murr Jacobs Collection (sale, Sotheby's, 29 October 1996, lot 92, $110,000).
Provenance: Gustave E. Matile, gift of President Lincoln -- Charles M. Ghormley, gift of the preceding, 21 July 1865 -- Stephen G. Schwartz, grandson of the preceding, by descent -- Mrs. Philip D. Sang (sale, Sotheby's, 27 March 1985, lot 211).