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Statue of Abraham Lincoln – Lincoln Memorial

Statue of Abraham Lincoln - Lincoln Memorial

Statue of Abraham Lincoln – Lincoln Memorial

“Statue of Abraham Lincoln” by Daniel Chester French is a colossal seated figure of United States President Abraham Lincoln housed in the Lincoln Memorial on the National Mall, Washington, D.C., United States.

The figure of Lincoln gazes directly ahead and slightly down with an expression of gravity and solemnity. His frock coat is unbuttoned, and a large United States flag is draped over the chair back and sides.

Daniel Chester French sculpted the work in the Beaux-Arts and American Renaissance style traditions. The work was unveiled at the memorial’s formal dedication in 1922.

French paid special attention to Lincoln’s expressive hands and used his own fingers’ casts to achieve the correct placement.

The hands rest on the enormous arms of a circular, ceremonial chair, the fronts of which bear fasces, emblems of authority from Roman antiquity.

The 170-ton statue is composed of 28 blocks of white Georgia marble and rises 30 feet (9.1 m) from the floor, including the seated figure with armchair and footrest upon a high pedestal.

Daniel Chester French was selected in 1914 by the Lincoln Memorial Committee to create a Lincoln statue as part of the memorial.

French had already created a major memorial statue of Lincoln for the Nebraska State Capitol in 1912. His studies of Lincoln had prepared him for the challenging task of the larger statue. 

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. 

French’s collaborators, the firm of Piccirilli Brothers, were commissioned to carve the large sculpture in marble from a quarry near Tate, Georgia.

The mystery of Lincoln’s sign language

Many believe that Lincoln is shown using sign language to represent his initials. His left hand was shaped to form an “A” and his right hand to form an “L.”

The National Park Service denies the story, calling it an urban legend. However, French had a son who was deaf, and the sculptor was familiar with sign language.

French may also have wanted to recognize Lincoln for having signed federal legislation giving Gallaudet University, a university for the deaf, the authority to grant college degrees.

Fasces

Lincoln sits on a chair, the fronts of which bear fasces, emblems of authority from Roman antiquity.

Fasces is a bound bundle of wooden rods, which had its origin in the Etruscan civilization and was passed on to ancient Rome, symbolizing a magistrate’s power and jurisdiction.

Sometimes the wooden rods including an axe with its blade emerging. The axe was originally associated with the symbol of the double-bitted axe. Originally from Crete, it is one of the oldest symbols of Greek civilization. 

The image of the bound bundle of wooden rods has survived in the modern world as a representation of magisterial or collective power, law, and governance.

The fasces symbolized power and authority in ancient Rome. By republican times, the use of the fasces was surrounded by tradition and protocol.

Governments and other authorities have used the image of the fasces as a symbol of power since the end of the Roman Empire. It has been used to hearken back to the Roman republic, particularly those who see themselves as successors to the old republic ideals.

Daniel Chester French placed the President in a classical chair, including fasces, a Roman symbol of authority, to convey that the subject is for all the ages.

Lincoln Memorial – Virtual Tour

Daniel Chester French

Daniel Chester French (1850 – 1931) was an American sculptor best known for his design of the monumental statue of Abraham Lincoln (1920) in the Lincoln Memorial, Washington, DC.

In 1893, French was a founding member of the National Sculpture Society, and he was appointed a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1913.

He was a trustee of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. He was a Chevalier of the French Legion of Honor and was awarded a medal of honor from the Paris Exposition of 1900.

He was a founding member of the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, including as chairman from 1912 to 1915.

Piccirilli Brothers

The Piccirilli Brothers were an Italian family of renowned marble carvers and sculptors who carved many of the most significant marble sculptures in the United States, including Abraham Lincoln in the Lincoln Memorial, Washington, D.C.

In 1888, Giuseppe Piccirilli (1844–1910), a well-known stone carver in Italy, brought his family to New York City. He came from a long line of stone carvers, unbroken since the days of the early Renaissance.

All six of Giuseppe’s sons were trained as marble cutters and carvers. Although the Piccirilli Brothers were known primarily as architectural modelers and the carvers of other sculptors’ works, two of the brothers distinguished themselves as sculptors in their own right.

Statue of Abraham Lincoln – Lincoln Memorial

  • Title:                Statue of Abraham Lincoln
  • Artist:               Daniel Chester French
  • Year:               1920
  • Medium:         Georgia marble (Murphy Marble)
  • Dimensions:   Total Height 30 feet (9.1 m); 19-foot (5.8 m) seated figure; 11-foot (3.4 m) pedestal
  • Weight:          170-ton statue
  • Type:              Public ArtFamous Sculptures
  • Location:        2 Lincoln Memorial Cir NW, Washington, DC, United States

Daniel Chester French

Statue of Abraham Lincoln – Lincoln Memorial

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Statue of Abraham Lincoln – Lincoln Memorial

Virtual Tour of the White House

The Lincoln Memorial’s History

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“You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.”
– Abraham Lincoln

~~~


Photo Credit: Christopher Q, CC BY-SA 4.0 <creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons; Joseph Doyle Anderson, CC BY-SA 3.0  (creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons; Gregory F. Maxwell <gmaxwell@gmail.com> PGP:0xB0413BFA, GFDL 1.2 <org/licenses/old-licenses/fdl-1.2.html>, via Wikimedia Commons; UpstateNYer, CC BY-SA 3.0 <creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons; ; mhaw, CC BY 2.0 <creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

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