Abraham Lincoln (1920 statue)
Abraham Lincoln is a colossal seated figure of U.S. President Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln was the 16th President of the United States, serving from March 1861 until his assassination in April 1865. He successfully led his country through a great constitutional, military and moral crisis – the American Civil War – preserving the Union, while ending slavery, and...

 (1809–1865) sculpted by Daniel Chester French
Daniel Chester French
Daniel Chester French was an American sculptor. His best-known work is the sculpture of a seated Abraham Lincoln at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.-Life and career:...

 (1850–1931) and carved by the Piccirilli Brothers
Piccirilli Brothers
The Piccirilli Brothers were a family of renowned marble carvers who carved a large number of the most significant marble sculptures in the United States, including Daniel Chester French’s colossal Abraham Lincoln in the Lincoln Memorial, Washington, D.C.-History:In 1888, Giuseppe Piccirilli , a...

. It is situated in the Lincoln Memorial
Lincoln Memorial
The Lincoln Memorial is an American memorial built to honor the 16th President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln. It is located on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The architect was Henry Bacon, the sculptor of the main statue was Daniel Chester French, and the painter of the interior...

 (constructed 1914–22), on the National Mall
National Mall
The National Mall is an open-area national park in downtown Washington, D.C., the capital of the United States. The National Mall is a unit of the National Park Service , and is administered by the National Mall and Memorial Parks unit...

, Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia and commonly referred to as Washington, "the District", or simply D.C., is the capital of the United States. On July 16, 1790, the United States Congress approved the creation of a permanent national capital as permitted by the U.S. Constitution....

, USA, and was unveiled in 1922. Stylistically, the work follows in the Beaux Arts
Beaux arts
Beaux Arts, Beaux arts, or Beaux-Arts may refer to:* Académie des Beaux-Arts, a French arts institution * Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts, a Belgian arts school* Beaux-Arts architecture, an architectural style...

 and American Renaissance
American Renaissance
In the history of American architecture and the arts, the American Renaissance was the period in 1835-1880 characterized by renewed national self-confidence and a feeling that the United States was the heir to Greek democracy, Roman law, and Renaissance humanism...



The 170-ton
The ton is a unit of measure. It has a long history and has acquired a number of meanings and uses over the years. It is used principally as a unit of weight, and as a unit of volume. It can also be used as a measure of energy, for truck classification, or as a colloquial term.It is derived from...

 statue is composed of 28 blocks of white Georgia
Georgia (U.S. state)
Georgia is a state located in the southeastern United States. It was established in 1732, the last of the original Thirteen Colonies. The state is named after King George II of Great Britain. Georgia was the fourth state to ratify the United States Constitution, on January 2, 1788...

Marble is a metamorphic rock composed of recrystallized carbonate minerals, most commonly calcite or dolomite.Geologists use the term "marble" to refer to metamorphosed limestone; however stonemasons use the term more broadly to encompass unmetamorphosed limestone.Marble is commonly used for...

 (Murphy Marble
Georgia Marble Company
The Georgia Marble Company was founded in 1884 by Henry Fitzsimmons. Fitzsimmons leased out all the land in Pickens County, Georgia, that contained rich Georgia marble. Pickens County has a vein of marble long, half as wide and deep.-Company history:...

) and rises 30 feet (9.1 m) from the floor, including the 19 feet (5.8 m) seated figure (with armchair
An armchair is a chair with arm rests.Armchair may also refer to:*Armchair nanotube, a carbon nanotube with chiral symmetry*Armchair, a sitting sex position*Armchair , a bus operator in London...

 and footrest) upon an 11 feet (3.4 m) high pedestal
Pedestal is a term generally applied to the support of a statue or a vase....

. The figure of Lincoln gazes directly ahead and slightly down with an expression of gravity and solemnity that viewers have often found deeply moving. His frock coat
Frock coat
A frock coat is a man's coat characterised by knee-length skirts all around the base, popular during the Victorian and Edwardian periods. The double-breasted style is sometimes called a Prince Albert . The frock coat is a fitted, long-sleeved coat with a centre vent at the back, and some features...

 is unbuttoned and a large flag is draped over the chair back and sides. French paid special attention to Lincoln’s expressive hands, which rest on the enormous arms of a circular, ceremonial chair, the fronts of which bear fasces
Fasces are a bundle of wooden sticks with an axe blade emerging from the center, which is an image that traditionally symbolizes summary power and jurisdiction, and/or "strength through unity"...

, emblems of authority from Roman antiquity. French used casts of his own fingers to achieve the correct placement.


Daniel Chester French was selected in 1914 by the Lincoln Memorial Committee to create a Lincoln statue as part of the memorial to be designed by architect Henry Bacon
Henry Bacon
Henry Bacon was an American Beaux-Arts architect who is best remembered for the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. , which was his final project.- Education and early career :...

 (1866–1924). French was already famous for his Minute Man (1884) statue in Concord, Massachusetts
Concord, Massachusetts
Concord is a town in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, in the United States. As of the 2010 census, the town population was 17,668. Although a small town, Concord is noted for its leading roles in American history and literature.-History:...

. He was also the personal choice of Bacon who had already been collaborating with him for nearly 25 years. French resigned his chairmanship of the Fine Arts Commission
United States Commission of Fine Arts
The United States Commission of Fine Arts , established in 1910 by an act of Congress, is an advisory agency of the Federal government.The CFA is mandated to review and provide advice on "matters of design and aesthetics", involving federal projects and planning in Washington, D.C...

 in Washington, D.C.—a group closely affiliated with the memorial's design and creation—and commenced work in December.

French had already created (1909–1912) a major memorial statue of Lincoln—this one standing—for the Nebraska State Capitol
Nebraska State Capitol
The Nebraska State Capitol, located in Lincoln, Nebraska, is the house of the Nebraska Legislature and houses other offices of the government of the U.S. state of Nebraska....

 (Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln (1912 statue)
Abraham Lincoln is a bronze statue of President Abraham Lincoln produced by Daniel Chester French between 1909 and its unveiling in 1912. It was commissioned by the Abraham Lincoln Memorial Association of Lincoln, Nebraska...

, 1912) in Lincoln, Nebraska
Lincoln, Nebraska
The City of Lincoln is the capital and the second-most populous city of the US state of Nebraska. Lincoln is also the county seat of Lancaster County and the home of the University of Nebraska. Lincoln's 2010 Census population was 258,379....

. His previous studies of Lincoln—which included biographies, photographs, and a life mask
Death mask
In Western cultures a death mask is a wax or plaster cast made of a person’s face following death. Death masks may be mementos of the dead, or be used for creation of portraits...

 of Lincoln by Leonard Volk
Leonard Volk
Leonard Wells Volk was an American sculptor. He is notable for making one of only two life masks of United States President Abraham Lincoln. In 1857 he helped establish the Chicago Academy of Design and served as its president until 1865. He made several large monumental sculptures, including the...

 done in 1860—had prepared him for the challenging task of the larger statue. For the national memorial, he and Bacon decided that a large seated figure would be most appropriate. French started with a small clay study and subsequently created several plaster models, each time making subtle changes in the figure's pose or setting. He placed the President not in an ordinary 19th-century seat, but in a classical chair including fasces
Fasces are a bundle of wooden sticks with an axe blade emerging from the center, which is an image that traditionally symbolizes summary power and jurisdiction, and/or "strength through unity"...

, a Roman symbol of authority, to convey that the subject was an eminence for all the ages.
Three plaster models of the Lincoln statue are at French’s Chesterwood Studio
Chesterwood (Massachusetts)
Chesterwood was the summer estate and studio of American sculptor Daniel Chester French in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.The estate covers of forest and field in the Berkshires, with French's summer home, studio, and garden dating from the 1920s...

, a National Trust Historic Site
National Trust for Historic Preservation
The National Trust for Historic Preservation is an American member-supported organization that was founded in 1949 by congressional charter to support preservation of historic buildings and neighborhoods through a range of programs and activities, including the publication of Preservation...

 in Stockbridge, Massachusetts
Stockbridge, Massachusetts
Stockbridge is a town in Berkshire County in Western Massachusetts. It is part of the Pittsfield, Massachusetts, Metropolitan Statistical Area. The population was 1,947 at the 2010 census...

, including a plaster sketch (1915) and a six foot plaster model (1916). The second of French's plasters, created at Chesterwood in the summer of 1916 (inscribed October 31) would be further enlarged and finally became the basis of the colossal marble. The work was originally to have been a 12 feet (3.7 m) bronze image. To determine the optimum scale and size for the memorial statue French and Bacon took photographic enlargements of the statue to the memorial while it was still under construction. French's longtime collaborators, the firm of Piccirilli Brothers
Piccirilli Brothers
The Piccirilli Brothers were a family of renowned marble carvers who carved a large number of the most significant marble sculptures in the United States, including Daniel Chester French’s colossal Abraham Lincoln in the Lincoln Memorial, Washington, D.C.-History:In 1888, Giuseppe Piccirilli , a...

, were commissioned to do the carving of a much larger sculpture in marble from a quarry near Tate, Georgia
Tate, Georgia
Tate is an unincorporated town in Pickens County, Georgia, United States. Originally called Marble Works post office by the United States Postal Service, then Harnageville after Ambrose Harnage, it was the first county seat for Cherokee County, which functioned as a large territory rather than a...


It took a full year for French's design to be transferred to the massive marble blocks. French provided finishing strokes in the carvers' studio in New York City
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

 and after the statue was assembled in the memorial on the National Mall in 1920. Lighting the statue was a particular problem. In creating the work, French had understood that a large skylight would provide direct, natural illumination from overhead, but this was not included in the final plans. The horizontal light from the east caused Lincoln's facial features to appear flattened—making him appear to stare blankly, rather than wear a dignified expression—and highlighted his shins. French considered this a disaster. Fortunately, an arrangement of electric lights was devised to correct this situation. The work was unveiled at the memorial's formal dedication on May 30, 1922.


Some have claimed, erroneously, that Confederate General Robert E. Lee
Robert E. Lee
Robert Edward Lee was a career military officer who is best known for having commanded the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia in the American Civil War....

's face is carved onto the back of Lincoln's statue, looking back across the Potomac at Arlington House (Custis-Lee Mansion)
Arlington House, The Robert E. Lee Memorial
Arlington House, The Robert E. Lee Memorial, formerly named the Custis-Lee Mansion, is a Greek revival style mansion located in Arlington, Virginia, USA that was once the home of Confederate General Robert E. Lee. It overlooks the Potomac River, directly across from the National Mall in Washington,...

 in Arlington National Cemetery
Arlington National Cemetery
Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington County, Virginia, is a military cemetery in the United States of America, established during the American Civil War on the grounds of Arlington House, formerly the estate of the family of Confederate general Robert E. Lee's wife Mary Anna Lee, a great...


Another popular legend is that Lincoln is shown using sign language
Sign language
A sign language is a language which, instead of acoustically conveyed sound patterns, uses visually transmitted sign patterns to convey meaning—simultaneously combining hand shapes, orientation and movement of the hands, arms or body, and facial expressions to fluidly express a speaker's...

 to represent his initials, with his left hand shaped to form an "A" and his right hand to form an "L". The National Park Service denies both stories, calling them urban legend
Urban legend
An urban legend, urban myth, urban tale, or contemporary legend, is a form of modern folklore consisting of stories that may or may not have been believed by their tellers to be true...

s. However, historian Gerald Prokopowicz writes that, while it is not clear that sculptor Daniel Chester French intended Lincoln's hands to be formed into sign language versions of his initials, it is possible that French did intend it, because he was familiar with American Sign Language
American Sign Language
American Sign Language, or ASL, for a time also called Ameslan, is the dominant sign language of Deaf Americans, including deaf communities in the United States, in the English-speaking parts of Canada, and in some regions of Mexico...

, and he would have had a reason to do so, i.e., to pay tribute to Lincoln for having signed the federal legislation giving Gallaudet University
Gallaudet University
Gallaudet University is a federally-chartered university for the education of the deaf and hard of hearing, located in the District of Columbia, U.S...

, a university for the deaf, the authority to grant college degrees. The National Geographic Society
National Geographic Society
The National Geographic Society , headquartered in Washington, D.C. in the United States, is one of the largest non-profit scientific and educational institutions in the world. Its interests include geography, archaeology and natural science, the promotion of environmental and historical...

's publication, "Pinpointing the Past in Washington, D.C." states that Daniel Chester French had a son who was deaf and the sculptor was familiar with sign language. Historian James A. Percoco has observed that, although there are no extant documents showing that French carved Lincoln's hands to represent the letters "A" and "L" in American Sign Language, "I think you can conclude that it's reasonable to have that kind of summation about the hands."

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.