Collectibles-General (Antiques)/Lincoln photograph
Hi Mr. Silver,
Thank you for taking the time to assist with my question.I recently acquired a large framed photograph of Abraham Lincoln. I believe it may be an albumen photograph of an engraving. I am familiar with other types of prints and this does not match what I am familiar with. The paper, image, and feel are like a cabinet card photograph. It is large measuring 18" by 22" not including the frame. I removed the wood back from the frame and discovered a sheet of newspaper backing dated 1865. Also on the back of the photo is a photographers label from F. Gutekunst. In pencil writing at the top of the back is "Pellman 6th & Callowhill". The wood board backing was in three pieces and where the splits in the board fell is where the dark stains show in the photograph. The frame is period and the glass is original. I believe the photo is period and original also.
I have been unable to find any information about this item or anything comparable to value it by. It is much larger than anything I can find that is similar. I have found some information about F. Gutekunst and his Philadelphia shop as well as examples of his cabinet card photos.
Can you tell me if this is a photograph and what type? Is it a photo of an engraving? He looks slightly younger than what I see on the $5 bill, but it does look similar. What is the value? Anything you can tell me will be greatly appreciated! Thanks in advance!
(I have 5 photos but it looks like I can only attach 2. Please email me if you need more photos).
First, what I *can* tell you about the image...this is definitely a copy of a fairly famous portrait of Lincoln taken by Matthew Brady well into Lincoln's presidency. The image has been copied and "stolen" and cropped to fit an untold number of later prints and post cards and cabinet cards and zillions of other things by an untold number of photographers and printers all across the USA. You can see an excellent example of the original complete photograph as Brady intended it on a genuine 1860's cabinet card that's currently available for auction (until April 23, 2015, I believe) here:
Now that's the real deal, not a second (or third or fourth, etc.) pirated copy.
What you have is an enlargement from a copy negative of Brady's original photograph. Whether or not it was a licensed copy, I simply don't know, and wouldn't hazard to guess. An awful lot of these photographs were pirated. Your copy is obviously cropped to a head and shoulders shot only, and possibly touched up or softened to remove the original lines and creases and stress on Lincoln's face. That's why it appears he is "younger". The date of 1865 seems correct, as Gutekunst was contemporary and the studio address on the back matches that period.
F. Gutekunst was a fairly famous studio portrait photographer, in business in Philadelphia from the mid 1850's into the turn of the century, who supplemented his income by printing occasional runs of cabinet cards and carte-de-visite and probably tintypes as well of famous people. This was a very common practice among *many* 19th century studio photographers, and Lincoln was always an extremely popular subject.
What I *cannot* tell you about the image is whether it is an albumen print. I'd have to have the item in hand to inspect it. Seeing a pic online won't help. However, if we're in agreement it dates from 1865, what else could it be? Saying it is or isn't won't make a difference anyway. It's a product of its time, and there's no doubt about that...
The problem here is condition. It's a poorly cropped, poorly copied, poorly touched-up image in generally poor overall condition. There is no lack of easily accessible copies of massed produced Lincoln pics from a later generation of studio photographers, so condition is everything. The best thing going for it is that it's by Gutekunst and clearly of that time, not a much later production, and the closer to the original we can get, the better. However, this is an extremely volatile and subjective market, and I cannot say with any certainty whether it might be worth $50, or $500, or significantly more. It's a copy, by a secondary source, not original Brady, and it's in poor shape. If I was cornered and forced to "guesstimate" a value, I'd take the cowardly conservative approach and say $600 to $900. However, since it is a Gutekunst, and it is contemporary, at auction I could be proven very wrong indeed. The point is that I can guarantee nothing. Gutekunst is most famous for taking his own actual portraits of U.S. Grant and Walt Whitman and a number of east coast "royalty". That's excellent provenance. But he did *not* take this Lincoln photograph. He copied it. Difficult to evaluate, especially in this sort of worn condition.
David F. Silver - President
International Photographic Historical Organization