Museum Special Exhibit Online - May 2010

Civil War Collection report by Sophie K.

Abraham Lincoln Life Mask and hands

    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 evening before."

    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.

Sophie K.