Iconic Portrait of Mary Todd Lincoln Discovered to be a Fake
A portrait of Mary Todd Lincoln, First Lady and wife to the 16th U.S. President Abraham Lincoln, has been discovered to be a fraud, a secret held for over 30 years, according to an article released today in the New York Times.
As the story goes, Mary had the painting commissioned while her hubby was away, knowing he would not approve of her having the work done. The painting was supposedly done by Francis Bicknell Carpenter, a renown artist in residence at the White House, who had been working on another painting at the time.
The painting was finished after Mr. Lincoln was assassinated, and Mary was too distraught to look upon her own painting, so she returned it to Mr. Carpenter, who then sold it to a wealthy family. From there, it was given back to Mr. Bloom's sister Susan, who had ultimately helped the same family out during an illness.
Susan was only five years old at the time, which is why some investigatory eyebrows were raised over this fictitious story.
The painting, depicted in the image on the left (above) was then sold to a granddaughter of Abe Lincoln for somewhere between $2,000 - $3,000 in the 1920's, a handsome sum at the time, along with the fake story and a certificate of authenticity. The painting has graced the Governor's mansion over the years, as well as part of the Illinois State Historical Library's collection.
As the painting went into restoration at the Art Institute of Chicago in the 1970's, those working on it discovered a painting of a different woman, wearing a cross. (Mrs. Lincoln was a Protestant, and never wore crosses.) The woman painted over, (depicted on the right of the image, above), looks nothing like Mary Todd; however, you can plainly see that the positions of each woman are exact. The fake painting had also had a brooch added even later, with an image on it of President Lincoln's likeness. The painting had been found to be signed later as well, on top of the coat of varnish.Continued on the next page