This lilliputian portrait of George Otis Hamlin, one of John Sloan’s most important supporters, was created by etching a penny and creating a print from its reworked surface. The playful likeness simultaneously evokes the tradition of commissioning medallic portraits, launched during the Renaissance, to honor civic leaders and the related use of such images to endorse currency. Indeed, Abraham Lincoln’s profile had only been added to the coin in 1909, less than a decade before Sloan reclaimed the object as an unconventional “plate,” which the artist may have understood in part as an homage to Duchamp’s “readymade” artworks. The implicit reference to Lincoln, whose portrait was erased to make way for that of Hamlin, points to yet another witticism: George Hamlin’s great uncle, Hannibal Hamlin, served as Vice-President to Lincoln during his first term in office. Sloan’s association of Hamlin with the newly designed tender proved prescient. Just five years later, in 1923, Hamlin purchased nineteen paintings by Sloan, providing a windfall to the cash-strapped artist, and securing for Hamlin a group of works that he would later bequeath to Bowdoin.
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