Abraham Lincoln, the Martyr, Victorious


W.H. Hermans.  “Abraham Lincoln, The Martyr, Victorious.”  New York: W. Hermans, 1866.  18 1/4 x 14.  Mezzotint by John Sartain.  Minor stains in margins.  Very good condition.


One of the great American allegories related to Abraham Lincoln and the preservation of the Union.  While the ending of slavery was a goal for Lincoln, the main reason he fought the Civil War was for the safeguarding of the Union.  While we tend to revere Lincoln today for emancipation, it was for the defense of the United States as a country that he was most venerated at the time; when Lincoln was assassinated, he was seen as a martyr to that cause.  As Merrill Peterson wrote, “the first lesson taught by Lincoln’s life was the inviolability of the American Union.  And the lesson taught by his death was the heroic sacrifice needed to sanctify the nation.”  (Lincoln in American Memory, p. 27)

This print was issued in the wake of Lincoln’s assassination to make that point.  It was drawn and published by W.H. Hermans and graphically mixing secular and sacred imagery to portray Lincoln as a martyr to his country.  The Union itself is represented by, George Washington, who welcome Lincoln to heaven.  The Father of the Country and its Savior are surrounded by angels, one of whom holds the laurel wreath of victory (“Victorious”) and the palm branch of martyrdom (“the Martyr.)  The angels and Washington gesture Lincoln on to the brightly lit and angel filled heaven in the top left.  The print’s imagery is even today moving, but especially as rendered in rich mezzotint by perhaps the leading American engraver of the day, John Sartain.