Abraham Lincoln,

Clark Mills
Plaster, c. 1917 cast after 1865 original

National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

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“The tired spot”


It is impossible to look at this cast of Lincoln’s face—gaunt and careworn—and not think that it is a death mask. In fact, it was taken from life on February 11, 1865, by sculptor Clark Mills. Life masks were very popular in the nineteenth century because they created a near-duplicate of the sitter’s features.


The plaster image complements the photographs taken of Lincoln by Alexander Gardner the same month. A friend of Lincoln’s commented on the mask—and thus on the original—that it has “a look as of one on whom sorrow and care had done their worst.”

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Listen to historian David Ward discuss this image

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