Text: Michael J. Deas, “Henry Inman,” The Portraits and Daguerreotypes of Edgar Allan Poe (1989), pp. 108-111 (This material is protected by copyright)


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­[page 108:]

[[ALLEGED PORTRAITS ATTRIBUTED TO HENRY INMAN]]

Alleged Portrait Attributed to Henry Inman

Alleged portrait of Edgar Allan Poe [thumbnail]

(fig. 50)
Alleged portrait attributed to Henry Inman
 
[Illustration on page 109]

This pleasant, early nineteenth-century painting of a young man (fig. 50) was once supposed to represent the “only existing portrait of Poe in his youth.”(90) The likeness first came to light at the turn of the century, when it was reproduced in the British periodical the Anglo-Saxon Review for March 1900. Accompanying the reproduction was an essay by the portrait’s owner, British art collector Francis Howard (1874-1954), who argued that the likeness had been painted in 1828 in England, where Poe was presumed to have fled after leaving the University of Virginia late in 1826. The likeness, stated Howard, was painted by the noted portraitist Henry Inman, and its history was “clearly” described on an “original label” affixed to the portrait’s frame.

The portrait was later discredited when it was proved that Poe had not gone to England in 1827 but had, in fact, enlisted in the U.S. Army under an assumed name: in 1828, when the portrait was allegedly painted in Great Britain, Poe was stationed at Fort Moultrie, South Carolina. Indeed, the portrait’s resemblance to Poe is extremely faint, and as the biographer Hervey Allen pointed out in 1926, “all that can be said is that it shows a well-dressed . . . sensitive featured, and delicately bred young man in his early twenties. . . . The picture may be any young dandy in the costume of the time.” The attribution to Henry Inman is equally doubtful; the art historian Theodore Bolton, in his 1940 catalogue of Inman paintings, dismissed the picture as “insufficiently documented.”(91)

The portrait remained in Francis Howard’s possession until his death in 1954, at which time his extensive collection of art was consigned to the Christie, Manson & Wood Gallery in London. In November 1955 the alleged portrait of Poe was sold at auction for £50, to a party identified only as “Weisz.”(92) By 1973 the painting was owned by the London firm of Spink & Son, and was later acquired by Pamela M. Reynolds of Brighton, England. In 1983 Miss Reynolds consigned the portrait for auction at the Christie’s East Galleries in New York City. Described only as a “Portrait of a Boy” by Henry Inman, the unframed painting was sold to the trade for $800.(93) Its present whereabouts are unknown. ­[page 110:]

Alleged Portrait Attributed to Henry Inman

Another spurious portrait of Poe attributed to Henry Inman is a loosely painted miniature in oils (fig. 51), first published in 1926 as a frontispiece to Mary E. Phillips’s two-volume Edgar Allan Poe: The Man. The portrait is preserved in a carved gilt and gesso frame, set into a larger shadow box; the cardboard backing carries an inscription: “Edgar A. Poe / Henry Inman / Pinxit.” According to Mary Phillips, the picture was painted in 1831, shortly after Poe’s dismissal from West Point.(94)

Alleged portrait of Edgar Allan Poe [thumbnail]

(fig. 51)
Alleged portrait attributed to Henry Inman
 
[Illustration on page 111]

The portrait first surfaced sometime before 1915 in the collection of Frank E. Marshall, “a very artistic and cultured collector from Pennsylvania.”(95) Where Marshall acquired the portrait is unknown, but the painting is said to have been in his possession for many years. In November 1915 the portrait was purchased at the Philadelphia Art Galleries by Robert C. Vose, proprietor of the Vose Galleries in Boston. Twelve years later it surfaced at “The Hayloft,” an antique furniture store in rural Pennsylvania, where it was purchased by Mr. Wharton Sinkler of Elkins Park, Pennsylvania.(96) In 1977 the portrait was donated to the Athenaeum of Philadelphia, through the bequest of Mrs. Wharton Sinkler.

Poe biographer Mary Phillips first saw the likeness about 1917 and thought it “the most delightful portrait of Poe in existence.”(97) She was evidently determined to include the portrait in her projected biography of Poe, and took considerable pains to ensure that this “Inman” portrait — unlike a previously discredited one (fig. 50) — would be regarded authentic. Her Poe: The Man contains two pages of testimonials solicited from a physician, a former art museum curator, and even a professor of modeling at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, all avowing that the portrait bore “many of the anatomical characteristics of Poe.”(98)

Despite these testimonials, the supposed Inman portrait has never gained wide acceptance among authorities on Poe and has seldom been republished. Indeed, there is nothing about the portrait — save the questionable inscription on the verso — even remotely to connect the likeness with Poe. Its origins are obscure, its provenance can be retraced no further than the turn of the century, and its resemblance to the authentic daguerreotypes of Poe is superficial at best. The identity of the sitter is unknown, but it is certainly not Edgar Allan Poe.

A third supposed portrait of Poe attributed to Henry Inman was handled by the George Chapellier Gallery in New York City in 1944.(99) The likeness, an oil on canvas measuring approximately 26 by 22 inches, depicted an anonymous young man holding a book with a red binding. The present whereabouts of the canvas are unknown, but a copy photograph of the image is on file in the University of Virginia Library.

 


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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) (Henry Inman)