Text: Michael J. Deas, “Rembrandt Peale,” The Portraits and Daguerreotypes of Edgar Allan Poe (1989), pp. 124-125 (This material is protected by copyright)


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Alleged Portrait Attributed to Rembrandt Peale

Alleged portrait of Edgar Allan Poe [thumbnail]

(fig. 58)
Alleged portrait attributed to Rembrandt Peale
[Illustration on page 125]

This portrait first came to light in 1923, when it appeared at an auction at Sotheby's Galleries in London. The portrait (fig. 58) was catalogued as having formerly belonged to Arthur Hamilton Lee, first Viscount of Fareham, and was supposedly painted in Philadelphia by the noted American artist Rembrandt Peale in 1833.(125) The authenticity of the portrait was called into question as early as 1926, when the likeness was reproduced in Amanda Pogue Schulte's Facts about Poe. Miss Schulte noted that the picture “seems very unlike Poe in separate features, as well as in the expression, and it seems, if meant for Poe at all, to represent an ideal conception of the poet. ... it is highly improbable that this picture is an authentic likeness.”(126)

Indeed, there is nothing in the portrait's provenance or physical appearance to support its being either a portrait of Poe or a painting by Peale. Stylistically, the picture bears little resemblance to Peale's mature work, and it is significant that neither Peale nor Poe was residing in Philadelphia at the time the portrait is alleged to have been painted. Although both men did at various times make Philadelphia their home, there is no evidence that the two men ever met: the Peale Papers, now preserved at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, contain not even a passing mention of Poe.(127) Moreover, it has been pointed out that Lord Lee — a knowledgeable and prodigious art collector whose holdings later became the nucleus of the Courtauld Gallery in London — would hardly part with the painting had he believed it to be a picture of true historical value.(128)

The portrait was purchased at the Sotheby's sale for £130 by the New York art dealers Scott & Fowles. It was eventually acquired by Richard de Wolfe Brixey of New York, who reportedly sold the painting several years before his death in 1943.(129) The portrait's subsequent history is unclear, but by 1980 the picture had entered the collection of the Margaret Hall Foundation in Lexington, Kentucky. In November 1980 the portrait was acquired by Mrs. Frances Miller Jensen of Ligonier, Indiana.

A second likeness alleged to be the work of Rembrandt Peale is a drawing measuring 21 1/4 by 17 1/4 inches, now preserved in the Koester Collection at the University of Texas at Austin. While certainly intended to represent Poe, it is not a portrait from life. Instead, it is a synthetic likeness, perhaps partially derived from an 1875 wood engraving of the Oscar Halling portrait (fig. 34).






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