The truth about Honest Abe is that he's very, very dirty.
"I'm cleaning off President Lincoln! He needs some cleaning," said sculptor Fred Brownstein of North Bennington, who has been commissioned to clean the Italian marble sculpture.
The towering bust of the 16th president has witnessed a century of comings and goings of state lawmakers from the halls of the Vermont Statehouse, so it's no wonder he's overdue for a cleaning.
"It has plenty of dust, absorbed oil and material from the air, and it's stained," Brownstein explained.
The president hasn't seen a sponge or a hose in more than 30 years. Brownstein cleans his sculptures once a year.
"Oh it's very important to clean it. If you leave it alone for long enough time the surface will actually deteriorate," Brownstein explained.
He says the bust of the president is not beyond help, but will never be perfectly clean. Decades of hands touching its base have left Mr. Lincoln's tailcoat permanently stained.
"And so in time, here in this space it has taken on the patina of age, and that's that yellow brown color that you see. And so some of that is going to remain," he said.
The marble sculpture was made in Italy by Larkin Goldsmith Mead. Mead grew up in Vermont but spent most of his adult life in Italy. When he died in 1911 his widow sent the bust to the Statehouse as a gift.
"I have a great respect for this artist. This is-- this type of craftsmanship-- you just can't find it anymore," Brownstein said.
The cleaning is paid for by the nonprofit the Friends of the Vermont State House. If you're wondering what it takes to clean a 100-year-old Italian marble sculpture, Brownstein says he uses mostly a mixture of mild soap and water. He expects the cleaning will take five days.
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