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Luce Foundation Center for American Art

Painting: 20th century: Life Mask (Abraham Lincoln)
Life Mask (Abraham Lincoln)

Life Mask (Abraham Lincoln)
Priscilla Roberts
oil on board
19 x 15 1/2 in. (48.3 x 39.4 cm)
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum purchase made possible by David S. Purvis

Life Mask (Abraham Lincoln) shows two well-known sculptures—Leonard Volk's 1860 life mask of Abraham Lincoln and Nike of Samothrace, the classical sculpture of the winged goddess of victory. Life Mask (Abraham Lincoln) is open to many interpretations. The classical statue, silhouetted in the foreground, may symbolize Lincoln's victory during the Civil War, but the muted colors and deep shadows suggest a more somber meaning. Roberts leaves the viewer wondering if this painting celebrates Lincoln's legacy, represents his mortality, or suggests that victory was overshadowed by his death.

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