Text: Michael J. Deas, “Edouard Manet,” The Portraits and Daguerreotypes of Edgar Allan Poe (1989), pp. 91-93 (This material is protected by copyright)


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­[page 91:]

Portraits by Edouard Manet

The renowned French impressionist painter Edouard Manet (1832-1883) is known to have executed at least three studies of Edgar Allan Poe: an etched portrait (fig. 41), a wash drawing (not shown), and a lithographic sketch (fig. 42). Although these portraits have never been dated with any precision, it is widely presumed that Manet intended all three to appear as book illustrations.

Etching of Edgar Allan Poe [thumbnail]

(fig. 41)
Etching by Edouard Manet
 
[Illustration on page 92]

Manet’s best-known rendering of Poe is the etched portrait, considered by authorities on Manet to be one of the artist’s earliest attempts at printmaking. The likeness shows Poe tightly framed by a circular band, embellished at the top by a large Victorian bow. This decorative motif has led several art historians, including Jean C. Harris in her catalogue raisonné of Manet’s graphic works, to speculate that the etching had been commissioned by Charles Baudelaire in 1860.(60) Baudelaire became acquainted with Manet about 1859, while he was compiling a one-volume edition of his collected essays on Poe; the volume was to be illustrated, in Baudelaire’s words, with “a portrait [of Poe] in a garland of emblems.”(61) Baudelaire died in 1867 and his book was never published, but it has been generally assumed that the portrait he envisaged for the projected volume was the etching by Edouard Manet.

Nevertheless, a date of 1860 for the etching seems highly improbable. The Manet likeness was undoubtedly based on the “Whitman” daguerreotype of 1848 — reproductions of which were unavailable in Europe until the 1870s. The distorted quality of the facial features in the etching suggests that Manet worked specifically from Robert Anderson’s 1874 steel engraving of the daguerreotype (fig. 19); the close hatchwork of the etching may have been an awkward attempt by Manet to emulate the linear quality of an engraved portrait on steel. A date of post-1874 for the etching seems very likely indeed, for it was not until 1875 that Manet became deeply involved with Poe’s works, beginning his celebrated series of lithographs for “The Raven,” translated by Stéphane Mallarmé.(62)

Whatever its intended purpose, Manet’s etching was never published in book form during the artist’s lifetime, and only one, or possibly two, contemporaneous proofs of the etching are now known to exist.(63) Following Manet’s death in 1883, the copper etching plate passed to the artist’s widow, Mme. Suzanne Manet, who permitted additional proofs to be pulled for an 1890 portfolio of Manet’s graphic works. Subsequent editions of the print were struck in 1894 and 1905.(64) The original etching plate is now preserved in the Cabinet des Estampes at the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris.

Lithograph of Edgar Allan Poe [thumbnail]

(fig. 42)
Lithograph by Edouard Manet
 
[Illustration on page 93]

Like the aforementioned etching, Manet’s tiny wash drawing of Poe has sometimes been ascribed a date of 1860.(65) The drawing, depicting Poe with windblown hair and a flowing cravat, was probably based on a wood engraving derived from Oscar Halling’s pastel portrait (fig. 33). Since Halling’s pastel was not completed until 1868 and the wood engraving not circulated until 1875, a date of 1860 for Manet’s drawing is clearly impossible. The drawing may have been executed in 1876, for tentative inclusion in Sara S. Rice’s Edgar Allan Poe: A Memorial Volume, a collection of literary tributes to Poe published in Baltimore in 1877. Mallarmé, with whom Manet had recently collaborated, wrote Miss Rice that he intended to submit some eulogistic verses to the volume and “his friend Manet would also like to submit something.”(66) The drawing was not used by Miss Rice, or any other contemporary publisher, and evidently remained in the artist’s possession until his death. Through an intermediary, ­[page 92:] Manet’s widow sold the drawing to Alfred Barrion, a French art collector. In 1904 the picture appeared at an auction in Paris, and was purchased at or after this sale by Etienne Moreau-Nel├íton, who in 1927 bequeathed it to its present owners, the Bibliothèque Nationale.(67)

A third likeness of Poe by Manet is an impromptu sketch (fig. 42) based on a reproduction of one of the two daguerreotypes by William A. Pratt, probably the “Thompson” daguerreotype (fig. 22). The sketch was first reproduced as the frontispiece to Mallarmé’s 1888 edition of Les Poèmes d’Edgar Poe, published five years after Manet’s death.(68) The likeness has usually been described as a drawing in pen and ink, but the existence of what appears to be a unique lithographic proof, now preserved at the University of Virginia, suggests that the portrait was executed with lithographic tusche, applied directly onto the lithographer’s stone. This sole known proof, which measures 4 3/4 by 3 1/2 inches (image size), was presented by Mallarmé to Poe biographer John Henry Ingram probably sometime between 1888 and 1898. It is inscribed in Ingram’s hand: “Par E. Manet. / An original sketch by E. Manet given me / by Mallarmé. J.H.I.” The proof was acquired with Ingram’s extensive Poe collection by the University of Virginia in 1921.

 


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Notes:

None.


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[S:1 - PDEAP, 1989] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Bookshelf - The Portraits and Daguerreotypes of Edgar Allan Poe (M. J. Deas) (Edouard Manet)