Alexander Gardner

American, born Scotland (Paisley, Scotland, 1821 - 1882, Washington, D.C.)

Portrait of Lewis Payne

ca. 1865
photograph | albumen print
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  • Portrait of Lewis Payne

    Alexander Gardner, Portrait of Lewis Payne, ca. 1865; albumen print, 8 3/4 in. x 6 7/8 in. (22.23 cm x 17.46 cm); Collection SFMOMA,

This haunting portrait depicts one of four conspirators hanged for the attempted assassination of members of Abraham Lincoln's cabinet in 1865.

Payne's physical beauty and peaceful countenance belie an enormous capacity for violence. A former soldier in the Confederate Army, he was recruited by John Wilkes Booth to kill Secretary of State William Seward, who (along with four others) was grievously injured by Payne's bowie knife. At his trial Payne's lawyer claimed his client was delusional, stating, "We know that slavery made him immoral, that war made him a murderer, and that necessity, revenge and delusion made him an assassin."

Gardner, who took the last known photograph of Lincoln before his death and then captured the spectacle of his funeral, was the only photographer granted access to the execution of the conspirators. The resulting photographs were made into etchings and published in the popular magazine Harper's Weekly.

8 3/4 in. x 6 7/8 in. (22.23 cm x 17.46 cm)
Acquired 1997
Collection SFMOMA


men, portraits, Lewis Payne, assassins, murderers, prisoners, conspirators, Abraham Lincoln, William Seward, John Wilkes Booth

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