Bowdoin College Museum of Art

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Image of untitled 14593



John La Farge



Creation Date

April 1865


mid-19th century

Object Type


Creation Place

North America, American

Medium and Support


Credit Line

Gift of Miss Susan Dwight Bliss


Public Domain

Accession Number

In response to the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, mourners recorded their shock, anger, and sorrow in diaries and letters, in the margins of account books, and on scraps of paper. They documented their reactions as a way to grasp what felt utterly unfathomable, but also because they knew they were living through a historic event. Artist John La Farge conveys his despair in this sketchbook drawing. The angel carries what could be a sword or spear in his left hand, possibly alluding to the archangel Michael’s battle against evil--a battle, La Farge infers, lost to Lincoln’s assassin. Or the weapon might evoke the laying down of arms in the Civil War, which had ended with Union victory less than a week before John Wilkes Booth murdered the president at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C. La Farge captured this cruel reversal, from jubilation to anguish, with the word “Victory” slightly obscured behind the angel’s wings.

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