When Is Mary Lincoln not Mary Lincoln?

Abraham Lincoln was the most photographed president of his time and has probably been depicted by artists more than any other American, but Mary has had her share of artistic interpretations too. Paintings and photographs of Mary are abundant, including one that resides in the White House painted by Mary’s niece and donated by Robert Todd Lincoln.

This painting, however, probably has the most twisted story. Long purported to be a portrait of Mary by famed artist Francis Bicknell Carpenter, it was sold to her descendants in the late 1920s. They donated it to this collection in 1976 where conservationists discovered it is not a portrait of Mary at all, but of a completely different woman that had been painted over to appear like Mary, presumably to swindle her family. The painting before you appears in its original state. The actual artist and subject remain unknown.

Gift of Robert Todd Lincoln Beckwith, 1976

AV-LR938 – Fake Mary painting

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