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Photograph of 'The First Inaugural of Abraham Lincoln' offered at Sotheby's New York
Photographer Unknown (possibly Alexander Gardner, 1821-1882), The First Inaugural Of Abraham Lincoln, 4 March 1861. Salt print, mounted, 1861 (Ostendorf 54), 10 1/8 by 12 3/8 in. (25.7 by 31.3 cm.). Est. $20/30,000. Photo: Sotheby's.


NEW YORK, NY.- Sotheby’s will offer an extremely rare and important photograph, The First Inaugural of Abraham Lincoln, 4 March 1861 (above, estimate $20/30,000), to be included in our autumn Photographs auction in New York on 7 October. This salt print is a landmark in the history of photography and among the most impressive examples of early documentary photography. Captured with remarkable clarity are the swelling crowds of thousands gathered outside of the Capitol Building to witness the inauguration the 16th President of the United States. The pre-sale exhibition is open to the public from 1 October.

As is the case with many photographs of Lincoln, definitive authorship of this image remains a long debated and fascinating question. A handful of artists, including Winslow Homer, witnessed Lincoln’s first inauguration, as did at least three photographers, among them Alexander Gardner. In the late 1850s and early 1860s, Gardner ran the operations of Mathew Brady’s Washington studio, and it is known that both Brady and Gardner were present during Lincoln’s first and second inaugurations. No other single photographer captured Lincoln’s likeness as many times as Gardner, and the photographer’s documentation of Lincoln provides an invaluable character study of one of our most important presidents at a pivotal juncture in this country’s history.

Extant prints of this historic image are scarce and it is believed that no other early print of this image has been offered at public auction.





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