A rare, 40-inch bronze sculpture of Abraham Lincoln modeled after a famed 12-foot statue that’s been on display in a Chicago park since the late 19th century will soon be part of the Lunder Collection at the Colby College Museum of Art.

Peter and Paula Lunder, the collection’s namesakes, paid $1.15 million at an auction last month for a replica of sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens’ signature work, which they gifted to the museum at the Waterville college.

The casting of “Abraham Lincoln: The Man” – sometimes called Standing Lincoln – is one of only 17 known replicas of the original, all made before 1923. It depicts the 16th president rising from a chair, one foot forward, to give a speech, his head bowed in contemplation.

Jacqueline Terrassa, the Carolyn Muzzy Director of the Colby College Museum of Art, said both the artist and this piece have been on the Lunders’ radar for some time.

“It’s a really beautiful sculpture of Lincoln … a figure who is tied to so many aspects of American history,” she said.

The Lunder Collection at Colby is one of the largest private collections of American artwork anywhere. Included in the 500-plus works of art are pieces by Winslow Homer and Georgia O’Keefe and more than 300 works by James McNeil Whistler, an influential 19th-century painter who was born in Massachusetts but spent much of his life in England.


The Lunders have long been art patrons and philanthropists and donated much of their $100 million collection to Colby in 2013. Peter Lunder, a Colby College graduate, is the nephew of the late Dexter Shoe Co. magnate Harold Alfond and served as president of that company for many years.

The Lunders purchased the Lincoln casting at an auction hosted last month by Skinner Auctioneers of Marlborough, Massachusetts. The sale price was well above the $700,000-$900,000 the auctioneer estimated the piece might fetch but less than what another replica sold for in 2020.

Robin Starr, vice president for Skinner Auctioneers and director of American and European works of art, said the price wasn’t a surprise given the rarity of the piece and its significance.

“It’s a little tougher to set an estimate for something like this because there are not a lot of them,” she said. “But any work featuring someone of that level of fame is going to have a certain cachet.”

Terrassa said she understands why the purchase price of any artwork often grabs attention, but she said this sculpture has value to Colby beyond that.

“We’re very happy to have it in our collection,” she said.


Starr said the sculpture had been on display for many years inside the library of a Massachusetts educational institution, which she wouldn’t name at the previous owner’s request. The top of Lincoln’s head is worn to a shiny patina, apparently because students had the habit of rubbing it, Starr said.

“Once (the school) found out what it was worth, they took it off display,” she said.

With his tall stature, heavily creased face and trademark beard, Lincoln has long been a popular subject for painters and sculptors alike – the most notable piece, of course, is the massive marble statue of a seated Lincoln inside the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.

The original Lincoln statue, on which the piece that will soon be at Colby is based, was commissioned in 1883 and completed four years later. It has been on display in Chicago’s Lincoln Park ever since.

The artist, Saint-Gaudens, died in 1907, but his widow, Augusta Homer, who also was an artist, oversaw the casting of a series of 40-inch versions from a fully finished model of the same size, all before 1923.

There are casts in New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Yale University Art Gallery, the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh and the Detroit Institute of Art, among other places.


Another replica sold in 2020 for $1.6 million, according to the auctioneer Sotheby’s, but the buyer was not disclosed.

Charlotte Mitchell, a specialist at Sotheby’s, said in 2020 that Saint-Gaudens was among the most celebrated sculptors of his time, but this was his first attempt at capturing Lincoln.

“He prepared diligently before modeling the full-scale Lincoln. He studied his speeches and contemporary photography to get a sense of his physical likeness,” she told Auction Central News. “Saint-Gaudens had encountered Lincoln twice: in 1861, before his presidency, and during his funeral procession in 1865. Those two moments stuck in his mind.”

Lincoln has always been one of the top two or three revered presidents in U.S. history, and even more so of late. The racial justice movement, as well as the country’s increased polarizations, has elevated Lincoln even more as a cultural hero. There are several recent documentaries out about his legacy, including a new series on Apple TV.

“I don’t know if it’s translated into the art world directly, but I do think he’s probably having a moment, both for what he accomplished and what he didn’t,” Starr said.

Terrassa agreed.

“I think the person of Lincoln and the leader he was and the role he performed as a president is absolutely pivotal to American history,” she said. “Part of the symbolism of Lincoln is the notion of values: What do we stand for? That makes him a really important figure for us to think about in this moment.”

Colby is still figuring out how it will display the sculpture, which has yet to arrive, but will make an announcement in the coming weeks.

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