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 Abraham Lincoln by Antonio Salviati 
Abraham Lincoln by Antonio Salviati
by Antonio Salviati (1816 - 1890) 
Enamel mosaic, 1866
Sight (oval) measurement
      Height: 22.75 inches  (57.8 cm)
      Width:  20.25 inches  (51.4 cm)
Cat. no. 39.00001.000
Biography of Abraham Lincoln


Created as a memorial, this mosaic portrait of President Abraham Lincoln was a gift to the United States from Italian artist and businessman Antonio Salviati. The mosaic was the work of the firm of Salviati, Burke, and Company of Venice and London. The House of Representatives passed legislation accepting the gift on July 24, 1866, and the Senate immediately concurred. Almost 20 years later Salviati’s firm gave a similar portrait to the United States in memory of the nation’s second assassinated president, James A. Garfield.

The gift of the Lincoln portrait came early in Salviati’s career, which was dedicated to restoring to prominence the medieval art of mosaic. Salviati founded his “laboratory of mosaic art” in Venice in 1859. He showed his works in 1861 at a national exhibition in Florence and in 1863 at an industrial exposition in Vienna. Doubtless the gift of the Lincoln portrait was both an honest expression of appreciation for the life of Lincoln–-described by Salviati as “one of the world’s greatest heroes”–-and an effort to promote his work internationally. In the years that followed, Salviati exhibited at major expositions in Paris, Naples, London, Milan, and Boston, where he won numerous gold medals and diplomas of honor. At the 1862 London Exposition, the British press touted “the superiority of the enamel work . . . and mosaics sent by the Salviati establishment in Venice.” The Salviati company developed a reputation for producing exquisite mosaic portraits of both ancient and modern subjects and for undertaking vast mural decorations for palaces and churches.

Antonio Salviati died in Venice on January 25, 1890, leaving his business to his two sons. The firm’s mosaic work occupies important architectural spaces in St. Paul’s Cathedral, the Houses of Parliament, and Westminster Abbey in London, and in the Albert Memorial Chapel at Windsor Castle in England. In the United States, the Stanford Memorial Church at Stanford University in California is decorated with massive Salviati mosaics. The exterior of the north facade depicts Christ Welcoming the Righteous into the Kingdom of God; when completed in 1901 it was the largest mosaic in America. The devastating 1906 San Francisco earthquake destroyed this priceless work, but it was recreated from the original drawings, preserved in Italy, several years later. Salviati’s company continues today to produce glass art of the highest quality.


Biography of Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln, 16th president of the United States, guided the nation through its devastating Civil War and remains much beloved and honored as one of the world's great leaders. Lincoln was born in Hardin (now Larue) County, Kentucky. He moved with his family to frontier Indiana in 1816, and then to Illinois in 1830. After serving four terms in the Illinois legislature, Lincoln was elected as a Whig to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1846. He did not seek reelection and returned to Springfield, Illinois, where he established a statewide reputation as an attorney. Although unsuccessful as a Whig candidate for the U.S. Senate in 1855, Lincoln was the newly formed Republican Party's standard-bearer for the same seat three years later. In that race, Lincoln captured national recognition by engaging Democrat Stephen A. Douglas in a dramatic series of public debates, but Lincoln ultimately lost to Douglas on election day.

In 1860 Lincoln was elected the nation's first Republican president. By the time of his inauguration in March 1861, seven Southern states had seceded from the Union, formed their own separate government, and inaugurated Jefferson Davis as its president. Concerned with preserving the Union from dissolution, Lincoln presented an inaugural address that was conciliatory in nature, assuring that slavery would not be abolished where it then existed. But one month later, when Confederate forces opened fire on Charleston's Fort Sumter while Congress was in recess, Lincoln acted decisively. He called up the militia; proclaimed a blockade; and suspended the writ of habeas corpus, which ensures a citizen's right to be brought before a court before imprisonment. The war that ensued lasted for four years, during which time Lincoln assumed greater executive power than any previous U.S. president.

Of all Lincoln's actions during the Civil War, he is perhaps best remembered for the Emancipation Proclamation, which he issued on January 1, 1863. Although it did not abolish slavery nationwide, it put slaveholders on notice and gave the conflict an undeniable moral imperative. When Lincoln was reelected in 1864, the war's end was in sight, and the president urged leniency toward the Southern states. His plan for postwar reconstruction advocated the forming of new state governments that would be loyal to the Union, a plan later adopted by President Andrew Johnson. Lincoln's presidency ended abruptly when he was shot by John Wilkes Booth on April 14, 1865, in Washington, D.C.'s Ford's Theater. Lincoln died the following day.


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