Leonard Wells Volk (November 7, 1828 – August 19, 1895) was an American sculptor. He’s famous for making one of two life masks of United States President Abraham Lincoln. Clark Mills made the other in 1865. In the spring of 1860, during Lincoln’s visit to Chicago, Volk asked him to sit for a bust and decided to start with a life mask. It’s claimed that Lincoln found the process “anything but agreeable” but maintained good humor, and was pleased with the final bust. Volk later used the life mask and bust of 1860 as the basis for other versions of Lincoln, including a full-size statue.
What’s the difference between a Death Mask and a Life Mask?
Death masks are casts taken from a cadaver while life masks are casts made from a living person. The face and head are greased, and then thin layers of plaster are applied and built up in layers.
Leonard Wells Volk
Untitled (life mask of Abraham Lincoln), n.d.
Brass wire hanger
Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Arthur Rouner
Samek Art Museum Collection