Sarah Fisher Ames, Abraham Lincoln

Sarah Fisher Ames: Abraham Lincoln (19th century) Carrara Marble
Title
Abraham Lincoln
Date
19th century
Medium
Carrara Marble
Credit Line
Bequest of Charles Knox Smith

A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure permanently half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved -I do not expect the house to fall -but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other.

-Abraham Lincoln, 1858

Sarah Fisher Ames was a master of marble, chiseling an amazing variety of textures into stone to convey a likeness of President Abraham Lincoln that balances his distinct features with an idealized, commanding nobility. Born Sarah Clampitt in Lewes, Delaware, Ames studied art in Boston and spent time in Rome with her husband, the accomplished portraitist, Joseph Alexander Ames. One of approximately 2,000 women nurses who volunteered during the American Civil War, she became the director of a wartime hospital in Washington, D.C.

Ames reportedly knew Lincoln "in an intimate and friendly way,” perhaps having met him in Washington during the war. The president sat for her after the war's end so she could sketch his features and perhaps model his likeness in clay. After Lincoln's assassination in 1865, Ames carved five marble busts based on her sessions with the president; these are considered hallowed works of art. One of the busts was purchased by the United States Congress Joint Committee on the Library in 1868 for $2,000 and was placed in the Senate wing of the U.S. Capitol Building, where it can still be seen today. Another was purchased for the Massachusetts Statehouse, and two others are in collections in that state, the Williams College Museum of Art and the Lynn Historical Society. It is extraordinary that Charles Knox Smith obtained this iconic, historic work of art for Woodmere.

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