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Mystery of the Lincoln Mask

A casual antique-store purchase leads a Vero Beach physician to diagnose the death of a great president.

Dr. Zimmerman, who specializes in pain management, has had several bronze copies cast from his plaster mask. He and his wife Diane present the bronzes to institutions that preserve Lincoln’s memory.

Dr. Zimmerman, who specializes in pain management, has had several bronze copies cast from his plaster mask. He and his wife Diane present the bronzes to institutions that preserve Lincoln’s memory.

The first thing you notice is how big his features are. His nose, large and aquiline, projects from a lightly creased, prominent brow. His ears are enormous, and his cheekbones stand in high relief above a squared jaw. The mouth is generous, its line determined. The expression overall is mobile; it puts one in mind of a man who ponders a question before parting his lips to speak. The discordant note is his eyes – that is, his lack of them. Marking their place are two concave smudges, raggedly circular like wax seals. But, considering everything, at age 150 the old boy’s face is in remarkably good shape.

No, it isn’t some matinée monster played by Bela Lugosi. It is a three-dimensional life mask of Abraham Lincoln, whose 52-year-old features are as fresh as the spring day they were cast in plaster, back in 1860. This remarkable object belongs to Dr. Mark D. Zimmerman of Vero Beach.

Dr. Zimmerman, a pain-management specialist, spotted the mask in 2001 in an antique shop while making another purchase. It had come to the dealer as part of an estate, and while the slab that the mask is mounted on is inscribed “Mask of Lincoln in 1860,” the object had no provenance. Intrigued, Zimmerman purchased the mask, took it home and hung it up in the living room.

Read the entire article in the February 2010 issue