1895 Robert E. Lee Large-Format Albumen Photograph by Alexander Gardner

Sold For: $3,300

Auction Year: 2016 fall

Lot: 2132

Item Year: 1895

Category: Historical/Political

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Exceedingly rare large-format albumen photograph of Confederate general Robert E. Lee by noted photographer Alexander Gardner. This is one of only two examples of this particular large-format photo we have ever seen. The other example is housed in the Library of Congress. According to the Library of Congress' online catalog, this photo was taken on February 18, 1865, less than two months before Lee surrendered his Confederate Army to General Ulysses S. Grant at the Appomattox Court House in Virginia. The name "R. L. Lee" is printed in script lettering along the base of the mount. Also printed at the base of the mount, in smaller lettering, are the name of the photographer, "A. Gardner, 511 Seventh Street, Washington"; the publisher of the piece, "Philip & Solomon, Washington"; and a 1866 copyright notice. Alexander Gardner (1821-1882) was one of the most important photographers of his era and one of the chief chroniclers of the Civil War. Gardner, who was President Abraham Lincoln's favorite photographer, became widely known during the Civil War for his battlefield photographers, including those of fallen soldiers. As a result, his images ushered in a new era of realism in photography. Following the war, he followed the progression of settlers westward, capturing images of Native Americans and their tribes. He also photographed many American Indians in his Washington studio. Just recently, the Library of Congress' example of this large-format albumen photo was exhibited in "Alexander Gardner : The War and the West" at the National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C., September 2015 - March 2016. The offered photo (14.75 x 18 inches) displays light foxing and a few extremely minor surface marks, which do not detract in the least from its overall Excellent appearance. The heavy cardboard mount (18.5 x 24 inches) displays heavy border wear, moderate staining, and light foxing. Framed to total dimensions of 22.5 x 27.5 inches. Reserve $2,000. Estimate $4,000++.


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