1864 Abraham Lincoln Proclamation Print

Value (2009) | $1,500 Retail

I was going to school in Madison, at MATC, at the time, and I was over at an acquaintance's house and he had this pinned up on his bedroom wall with four darts. And I ended up buying it from him. I asked him where he got it from, and his great-grandfather had gotten killed in the war in Germany, and they sent back his belongings in a trunk and there was a frame that he wanted to put another picture in and this was stored behind the original picture that was in that frame, along with three other numbered prints from Germany.

What do you figure you paid for this?

If I remember right, I think I have about $35 in it.

What you have here is a very unusual print. The print was done in 1864. And while there are many portraits of Lincoln, this is one of the few that shows him signing the Emancipation Proclamation. The information about it is down here. It says, "Abraham Lincoln signing the Emancipation Proclamation." Underneath is a copyright notice. And the copyright date on this is 1864, so the Civil War is still going on. It's a wonderful contemporary print. And of course, Lincoln is put into the context of a president of the United States. Elegant Federalist furniture, a depiction of the proclamation itself. One of the things on the table is the Bible, and Lincoln was known as an avid Bible reader. Then, to the background, is George Washington. Washington's image was used during the Civil War quite a bit because Washington was a federalist, but he was also a Virginia planter. He was like the antithesis of Robert E. Lee. This was some Yankee propaganda as well. And then, surrounding Lincoln are the trappings of portraiture. Here's the American eagle up here; the curtain of elegance, which goes back to symbolism of the Renaissance; and then the pillar of stability. These are the kind of things you would find in Neoclassical portraiture. It's interesting that the artist is not very well known at all. His name was Winner. Thomas Dainty, the publisher, who is recognized here, only did a few prints. But this man, Serz, was a very active engraver in Philadelphia, part of that Philadelphia German group that would have been so important at this time. It's definitely a steel engraving, and they're all recorded artists and craftsmen working at the time of the Civil War in Philadelphia. When you talk about a proof on a print, it should mean strictly that the printmaker was working with the artist and the artist was going to approve it and would say, "Oh, it needs a little touch here and it needs some more shading here." Well, this isn't really a proof. It was a marketing device.


They just put a proof on it to make people think it was an early impression. Almost every one I've seen has "proof" on it. I would say that a typical retail value for this print would be $1,500.


Appraisal Details

The Philadelphia Print Shop
Philadelphia, PA
Appraised value (2009)
$1,500 Retail
Madison, WI (July 11, 2009)

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