Lincoln reading the Emancipation Proclamation


Francis B. Carpenter.  “The First Reading of the Emancipation Proclamation Before the Cabinet.  From the original picture painted at the White House in 1864.”  New York, 1866+.  Premium from The Independent.   21 x 32 1/2.  Steel engraving by Alexander H Ritchie.  With some old tears and scrapes in image, expertly conserved.  Overall, good appearance and condition.  Holzer, et al., The Lincoln Image, fig. 57.


One of the most important of Lincoln prints, this large engraving after Francis B. Carpenter’s painting had much to do with the impact of the Emancipation Proclamation on the minds and hearts of Americans after the Civil War.  Carpenter, who believed that the Proclamation was one of the great events of the nineteenth century, petitioned Lincoln to create an image of the event and then to publish a print to disseminate knowledge of it.  Lincoln, who had made the Proclamation with the intent of it having an important political impact, was enthusiastic in helping Carpenter.  He not only let Carpenter use the White House state dining room as his studio for six months, but he instructed all his cabinet members to make themselves available to Carpenter for studies for the print.

The resulting print was extremely successful, receiving critical acclaim and wide distribution.  The portraits of each person present at the reading is true-to-life and insightful and the room and its furniture and objects are accurately portrayed.  Each of the sitters for the print, from Lincoln through every cabinet member, ordered a copy of the print.  Many derivative prints were issued, but this is the original image of this monumental turning point in the political and social history of the United States.