Rare Lincoln inauguration photograph to sell at Sotheby's



2016-09-20 14:05:54

A highly rare photograph of Abraham Lincoln's inauguration in 1861 will be offered for sale at Sotheby's next month.

Described as "a landmark in the history of photography and among the most impressive examples of early documentary photography", the image captures the moment on March 4, 1861 that Lincoln was sworn in as the 16th President of the United States.

Just a handful of prints of the historic photograph are known to exist, and the example for sale at Christie's is believed to be the first ever offered at auction.

Other period prints are currently owned by the Library of Congress, the Indiana Historical Society and the Smithsonian Museum of American History.

This copy, a salt print formerly part of the Collection of Culver Pictures, Inc., is expected to sell for $20,000 - $30,000.

Although the identity of the photographer is unknown, the image has often been credited to Alexander Gardner, a Scottish photographer who immigrated to the United States in 1856.

Gardner had seen the work of pioneering American photographer Matthew Brady at The Great Exhibition in London in 1851, and sought him out when he arrived in the U.S.

The pair struck up a strong working relationship, and Gardner was placed in charge of Brady’s Washington studio, where he photographed everyone from departing Civil War soldiers to Native American Indian chiefs, along with countless political figures.

The studio was home to the famous Brady Chair, in which Abraham Lincoln (amongst many others) sat for some of his most famous portraits. Having seated five U.S Presidents, the chair sold at auction in 2015 for $449,000.

Gardner took more photographs of Lincoln than any other photographer during his life, and documented the president's funeral. He also photographed the conspirators behind Lincoln's murder, including assassin John Wilkes Booth, and was the only photographer allowed at their execution.

The Sotheby's Photographs sale takes place in New York on October 7.

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