Museum Special Exhibit Online - May 2010
Civil War Collection report by Sophie K.
A life-mask is stated as a cast taken from the face of a living
person. Life masks are created from plaster, clay or wax. Once the material
is plastered on the face and it dries, it is removed to create a negative.
From the negative, a positive casting is created.
This life-mask of Abraham Lincoln was created in 1860 by the
American sculptor Leonard W. Volk. This life-mask of the famous president
was the first of two created. A second one was created 5 years later in 1865.
However the two life masks were completely different, and immediately showed
aging of the inspiring president. From the two, one can see the life mask
in 1865, shows Lincoln with a beard and much more wrinkles. Many believe it
is due to the stress of his presidency. Lincoln stated when he first saw his
life-mask, "There is the animal himself."
Also, along with his first life mask, Lincoln had his hands
created into a mask as well. Abraham Lincoln has abnormally large hands.
Many people believe he suffered from Marfan Syndrome. People with Marfan
Syndrome are typically tall, with long limbs, and long fingers. While
comparing his two hands, Lincoln's right appears to be swollen. It is said
that Volk stated that, "This is due to the excessive hand shaking the
The life-masks of Abraham Lincoln are rare and resemble the
humble and inspiring American leader. The life-masks of Lincoln cost around
575 dollars. The life-masks are an extremely important part of the history
of Lincoln. While most pictures of Abraham Lincoln give a false idea of what
he looked like, the life-masks clearly depict his true appearance.