Samuel B. Waugh. “Lincoln and his Family.” Philadelphia: Bradley & Co., 1866. 17 1/2 x 24 3/4. Mezzotint with engraving by William Sartain. Printed by Irwin & Sartain. Very good impression. Very good condition. Holzer et al., The Lincoln Image, Fig. 80.
This is one of most famous prints of Lincoln, a family portrait based on a painting of Samuel B. Waugh and engraved by William Sartain. This print was copied by many other nineteenth century print publishers, but none equaled the quality of this rich engraving. Lincoln is shown with his two sons and wife surrounded by elegant furnishings of the White House. The family is grouped around a covered table, upon which lie two books, including the Bible. Lincoln and Tad sit to the left, and above Lincoln’s right shoulder is a bust of George Washington, linking the martyred president with the ‘father of the nation.’ Outside the draped window is the outline of the Capitol dome, completed during Lincoln’s terms. Mary Lincoln sits to the right, and Robert stands in the center between his parents. Over Robert’s shoulder is a portrait of William Lincoln, who had died in 1862. Waugh makes use of clever symbolic lighting and artifacts, which was characteristic of portrait painting at this time. One symbol was described in a promotional circular, “On the table is a vase of flowers ’embracing the Roses of the North, and the Small Magnolia, Sweet Clematis, and Virginia Creeper, which bloom in profusion in the South,’ all wreathed in harmony, emblematic of the friendly feeling that should exist between the people of the North and South, in the great vase of the UNION…”
Waugh’s details are beautifully rendered by William Sartain, scion of the illustrious Philadelphia family of artists the patriarch of which was John Sartain. The concept and design of Waugh’s painting was based on Edward Savage’s famous image of George Washington and his family. It is interesting that John Sartain engraved a large mezzotint after the Washington family painting, so here William is following closely in his father’s footsteps with his engraving of the Lincoln family. William was able to closely simulate the texture of the rich satins, soft woolens, and lustrous leather. At the time of its issue, this print was thought of as a first class example of print making, selling for as much as $20 for an artist’s proof, and $7.25 for a regular print. As Holzer, et al. remark, “In its day, the Sartain engraving was considered the best print portrait of the Lincoln family.” (The Lincoln Image, p. 171) This print was so popular that cartes-de-visite were published using photographs of the print, giving the illusion they were photographs of the actual family.