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Shortly before he won the nomination at the Republican Convention in Chicago, May 1860, Lincoln paid several visits to Volk’s studio and gave the sculptor the opportunity to make his life mask as well as his portrait. Although a contemporary bronze cast of the latter was known to exist, its whereabouts were unknown until 1947, when it was discovered in an antique store in New York.
The bronzes owned by the Henry E. Huntington Library and Art Gallery and by the Metropolitan Museum were cast from a plaster model found in the sculptor’s studio.
It is one of history’s pleasantries that Stephan A. Douglas was partly responsible for the magnificent workmanship, which shaped into this compelling portrait the countenance of the man he is best remembered for having so bitterly opposed. For the “Little Giant” had been Volk’s patron and had even sent him to Rome – in 1857 – to round out his experience as an artist. Among Volk’s most famous works are life-sized statues of Douglas and of Lincoln (completed in 1876) in the Illinois State Capitol.