Washington & Lincoln, Apotheosis

Ferris, Stephen James (American, 1835-1915)

Reproduction Print
3 ¾ × 2 ¼ in.
Kenyon College, Blick-Harris Study Collection, 2015.103

In this print, George Washington welcomes Abraham Lincoln into heaven with an embrace and a wreath placed onto his head. The term “apotheosis” refers to the ascension of an individual to a divine status, elevating Lincoln as a biblical-like martyr as beloved and revered as Washington. Originating from the Roman period, the use of the term alludes to nineteenth-century America’s broader revival of classical motifs in art and architecture. A reproduction of an original image by Stephen James Ferris, cartes-de-visite such as this were distributed widely following Lincoln’s assassination and allowed Americans to partake in mourning the sudden death of a prominent public figure. Collecting and carrying these cards might have eased grief and provided a sense of larger community in the wake of national tragedy.

Why might an artistic print be more successful than a photograph of this subject?