Text: Michael J. Deas, “Other Rejected Portraits,” The Portraits and Daguerreotypes of Edgar Allan Poe (1989), pp. 134-139 (This material is protected by copyright)


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The following is a descriptive catalogue of seventeen spurious portraits of Poe whose existence does not merit particular discussion in the preceding text. Several of the likenesses have already been discredited by authorities on Poe or American historical portraiture; many have never been regarded authentic, at least not seriously, by anyone other than the owners or art dealers who originally offered them to the public as bona fide life portraits of Edgar Allan Poe. Most have found their way into print at one time or another, and in each case an appropriate citation is given in the catalogue. It should be noted that the catalogue is a selective one; spurious Poe portraits are myriad, with the images listed here representing only a sampling of the derivative or wholly fraudulent likenesses of the author that have surfaced since the turn of the century.

Group Portrait

This photograph of three theatrically dressed young men was first published in the April 1916 issue of the Century Magazine (o.s. 91:906-7), where it accompanied an article by Lilian McG. Shepherd entitled “A New Portrait of Edgar Allan Poe.” According to Miss Shepherd, the picture had only recently been discovered among the personal effects of Poe's foster father, John Allan, and depicted Poe accompanied by two of his classmates from the University of Virginia, Miles George and Thomas Goode Tucker. Miss Shepherd was quickly taken to task by J. H. Whitty, who in the August 1916 issue of the Century (o.s. 92:635) noted, rather sensibly, that John Allan could not possibly have owned the photograph, he having died five years before the invention of photography. Indeed, the picture's resemblance to Poe is minimal, and the composition and overall style of the photograph date the image to about 1860 — well after Poe's death in 1849.

Portraits Attributed to F. T. L. Boyle

Ferdinand Thomas Lee Boyle (1820-1906) was a portrait painter of some distinction whose name has been associated with at least two alleged portraits of Poe. The earlier of the two likenesses to surface was reproduced as lot 45 in the American Art Association sale catalogue DeLuxe Illustrated Catalogue of Early American Portraits Collected by Mr. Thomas B. Clarke (New York, January 7, 1919). The portrait was reportedly discovered some years earlier in an auction room on the east side of New York City, where it was purchased by the noted art collector Thomas B. Clarke for $15.(145) It was sold at the Clarke sale for $600 to the Duveen ­[page 135:] brothers, agents acting on behalf of Henry E. Huntington. The portrait remained in the Huntington Library until the mid-1970s; its present whereabouts are unknown. The identity of the burly, rather gruff-looking gentleman depicted by the portrait is unknown, but it is certainly not Edgar Allan Poe.(146)

A second portrait attributed to Boyle, though undoubtedly intended to represent Poe, is not a portrait from life. Instead, it is a derivative likeness, based on Mathew Brady's version of the “Ultima Thule” image (fig. 39). The portrait, an oil on canvas measuring 19 by 16 1/4 inches, was first reproduced in 1932 as the frontispiece to Burton Rascoe's Titans of Literature, from Homer to the Present (New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons); there it was credited as belonging to the Robert Fridenburg Galleries in New York City. By September 1934 the portrait was in the hands of James F. Drake, a rare book dealer, who sold it to Josiah K. Lilly. The likeness is presently owned by the Lilly Library at Indiana University, Bloomington.

Oval Portrait by Unknown Artist

This curiously unpleasant portrait was first reproduced in an auction catalogue issued at an undetermined date by the Philadelphia firm of S. V. Henkels & Son.(147) The likeness, a full face bust attributed to an “unknown artist,” depicts a clean-shaven young man with long, dark hair, neatly bobbed at the neck. Touted in the catalogue as “remarkably interesting” and “exceptionally well painted on copper” measuring 10 1/4 by 8 1/4 inches, the portrait appears to be, in fact, a retouched photograph; its resemblance to Poe is virtually nonexistent. In 1926 the Henkels catalogue reproduction was incorporated into Mary E. Phillips's Edgar Allan Poe: The Man (1:292) where it was described as an early portrait of Poe painted by Robert M. Sully. That same year the likeness appeared in Amanda P. Schulte and James Southall Wilson's Facts about Poe, catalogued as a “Pseudo-Poe portrait” limned by an unidentified artist. Unlike Phillips, Wilson rejected the portrait, noting that it was “surely not in accord with head and facial details of other pictures [of Poe].”(148) The whereabouts of the original likeness are unknown.

Portrait Attributed to Francis Darley

This portrait is supposedly an unfinished oil painting by Francis Darley, brother of Felix O. C. Darley, a noted illustrator and friend of Poe. The picture is totally lacking in physical resemblance to the authentic images of Poe, and the sole authority for its attribution seems to have been “the man who sold it” to its one-time owner, an unidentified “gentleman of Philadelphia.”(149) The original painting is now unlocated, although in 1926 a photographic copy was reportedly hanging in Poe's room on the West Range at the University of Virginia. The image is reproduced at page 15 of Schulte and Wilson's Facts about Poe and at page 480 of the Literary Digest and International Book Review for July 1926. ­[page 136:]

Charlestown Navy Yard Portrait

Reproduced and discussed in Phillips, Poe: The Man, 2:1375-77. This portrait was supposedly discovered in 1915, in the attic of “Building No. 34” at the U.S. Navy Yard in Charlestown, Massachusetts. In Poe: The Man, Mary E. Phillips noted that the portrait depicted a man wearing what was purported to be two wedding rings made into one. Since Poe allegedly wore such a ring following the death of his wife in 1847, Phillips reasoned that the portrait could only be a likeness of Edgar Allan Poe. In an equally remarkable leap of faith, Miss Phillips also attributed the portrait to Samuel S. Osgood, husband of Frances Sargent Osgood (qq.v ). Although the portrait does bear a dim resemblance to the earlier authentic images of Poe, there is, realistically speaking, nothing in its provenance to connect it even remotely with the poet. Recent efforts to locate Poe's wedding ring, supposedly deposited with the Long Island Historical Society about 1865, have been unsuccessful.

The “Carey” Portrait

Reproduced and discussed in Alexander T. Weddell's Virginia Historical Portraiture, 1585-1830 (Richmond: William Byrd Press, 1930), pp. 403-4, where it is incorrectly described as a life portrait painted “in the year Poe died.” The likeness, a thickly painted oil on canvas measuring approximately 19 by 15 1/2 inches, is in fact derived from the “Ultima Thule” daguerreotype of 1848 (fig. 14). The picture once belonged to Miss Amelia F. Poe (1833?-1913), daughter of Judge Neilson Poe of Baltimore. In 1929 Amelia's niece, Mrs. Harry A. January of St. Louis, recalled that her aunt had found the canvas decades earlier in “an old shop in Baltimore”; convinced that it was genuine, she “denied herself much to buy it ... and finally carried it home herself.” By 1930 the portrait was owned by Miss Margaret Carey of Guildford, Baltimore, and is at present in the collection of the Enoch Pratt Free Library.

Portrait by John Carlin

This likeness has never been published, although a copy photograph of the image was filed with the University of Virginia Library in 1931. Described as an oil on millboard measuring approximately 11 by 9 inches oval, the painting is a crudely executed likeness of a schoolboy with a long, strangely stylized lock of hair drooping over his left eye. Accompanying the copy photograph is a letter from the portrait's owner, a New York art restorer named Prosper Guerry, claiming that the picture was copied “after a miniature by John Carlin.”(150) There is nothing about this likeness, either in its provenance or its physical appearance, to suggest it is a genuine portrait of Edgar Allan Poe. The painting dropped from sight after 1931, and remains unlocated. ­[page 137:]

“Daguerreotype” Owned by J. H. Whitty

Reproduced as the frontispiece to David K. Jackson's Poe and “The Southern Literary Messenger” (Richmond: Dietz Printing Co., 1934), where it was accompanied by the caption “From an original photograph in the possession of Mr. James H. Whitty, Richmond, Va.” This reproduction was later mistaken as having been made from an unlocated daguerreotype, and was described as such in Harold F. Pfister's Facing the Light: Historic American Portrait Daguerreotypes (Washington, D.C.: National Portrait Gallery, 1978), p. 342. The likeness is in fact a modern photographic print of the “Thompson” daguerreotype (fig. 22) mounted in an old daguerreotype case. The photograph formerly owned by Whitty is now in the Koester Collection at the University of Texas at Austin.

Portrait of “Edgar”

One of the most witless forgeries to be encountered in a study of Poe portraiture is a likeness that appeared in the December 1940 issue of the revived Southern Literary Messenger (2:652-53). The picture, an oval photograph of a child posed full length before a studio wall, was purported to be a likeness of Poe at the age of five. Since Poe was thirty when photography was invented in 1839, one can only hope that the picture was intended as a hoax. If indeed it was a hoax, its perpetrator seems to have been a Mr. L. B. Hatke of Staunton, Virginia, who claimed to have found the picture in the hands of a woman living “just out of Harrisonburg, Va.”(151) Allegedly attached to the picture was the inscription “Edgar / on his fifth birthday / Born on the 19th day of January 1809.” In 1936 Hatke offered to sell the picture to the American Antiquarian Society, but was refused. Four years later the photograph was reproduced in the Messenger, where it accompanied an anonymous article entitled “Concerning the Portrait of ‘Edgar.’ ” The article consisted largely of testimonials concerning the picture's authenticity, including a decidedly reluctant one extracted from the poet Louis Untermeyer. Hatke's efforts to promote the likeness were evidently unsuccessful: the picture disappeared sometime after 1940 and is at present unlocated.

“West Point” Daguerreotype

The whereabouts of this likeness are unknown, but a copy photograph of the image is in the files of the University of Virginia Library. The photograph is unaccompanied by any explanation of its origin, but was presumably thought to be a reproduction of a daguerreotype taken while Poe was a student at West Point. The picture depicts a mustachioed young man in pseudo-military attire, seated casually beside a small end table, holding a riding crop in his gloved left hand. The sitter's resemblance to the authentic images of Poe is minimal at best. Moreover, Poe's tenure at West Point ended in 1831 — eight years before the invention of photography. ­[page 138:]

Portrait by William E. Winner

Reproduced and discussed in “Mystery Painting Shows a New Poe,” in the New York Times for January 19, 1936 (sec. 2, p. 2). According to this article, the portrait was discovered “hidden” in a secondhand shop in Philadelphia in 1935. It was purchased by Col. Richard Gimbel, who, after attempting to authenticate the picture, announced, “My investigation has led me to conclude that it is one, if not the most important, of the portraits of Poe in existence.” Gimbel's claim was somewhat overstated, for the portrait is nothing more than a stylized derivative of the “Ultima Thule” daguerreotype (fig. 14). Painted on canvas measuring 32 by 25 inches, it carries an inscription on the verso stating that it is the work of “Winn——.” The last letters of the name are partially obliterated, but it is now believed the artist was William E. Winner, a portrait and genre painter born in Philadelphia about 1815 and active there until his death in 1883. The painting is now in the Gimbel Collection at the Free Library of Philadelphia.

Portraits by E. C. Lewis

At least two portraits of Poe have been ascribed to E. C. Lewis, an obscure artist purportedly active in Philadelphia sometime during the nineteenth century.(152) The better known of the two Lewis portraits is reproduced as the frontispiece to Floyd Stovall's edition of The Poems of Edgar Allan Poe (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1965). The original painting, an oil on canvas measuring 16 1/4 by 13 1/2 inches, was presented to the University of Virginia in 1960 as a gift of Clifton Waller Barrett. It is not a portrait from life but a derivative of the “Ultima Thule” daguerreotype (fig. 14).

Another portrait of Poe attributed to Lewis appeared as a full-page reproduction in the S. V. Henkels & Son sale catalogue no. 1013, lot 31.(153) Although it too is obviously derived from the “Ultima Thule” daguerreotype, this painting was fraudulently described in the Henkels catalogue as an “Original Oil Portrait from Life” painted by Lewis about 1835. Mounted in a deep ebony frame, it was reportedly signed by the artist and measured “about three-quarters life size.” The rendering of the work is considerably cruder and far more amateurish than in the aforementioned portrait. While both pictures were closely based on the “Ultima Thule” image and both have been attributed to E. C. Lewis, their stylistic dissimilarities strongly suggest they are in fact the work of separate artists. In 1926 Amanda Schulte (Facts about Poe, pp. 46-47) reported that the latter portrait was in the hands of “a gentleman of Philadelphia”; its subsequent whereabouts are unknown.

Portrait by John Beaufain Irving, Jr.

A small halftone reproduction of this portrait is in the picture file of the Library of Congress, catalogue no. LC-US262-62321. The source of the reproduction has not been established, but the picture appears to have been cut from an auction catalogue published circa 1920. It ­[page 139:] depicts a badly cracked oil painting, supposedly measuring 11 by 9 inches, set into a heavy, baroque frame. The painting itself is a full-face bust portrait of a man wearing long, dark chin whiskers, attired in a light-colored vest and dark frock coat. The likeness bears a dim resemblance to the “McKee” daguerreotype (fig. 3) but the overall expression — that of a stoutish, slightly bemused young man — is incongruous with other authenticated images of Poe. The original oil painting, said to be the work of the Charleston portraitist John Beaufain (or Beaufaier) Irving, Jr., is unlocated.

Portrait by Anna Claypoole Peale

Reproduced in the Baltimore Sun Magazine for November 6, 1966, p. 12. Formerly thought to be a likeness of Poe, this miniature was discredited when an inscription correctly identifying the sitter was discovered on the portrait's verso. It reads “Mr. John T. Priling / Frankfort / May 14th, 1834.” The miniature is currently owned by the Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore.

Portrait Attributed to James Eddy

Reproduced and discussed in the Baltimore Sun, May 29, 1982; reproduced and offered for sale in the Young Fine Arts (Portsmouth, New Hampshire) sale catalogue for May 29, 1982, lot 45. The known history of this portrait is typical of the many fraudulent likenesses of Poe that have surfaced since 1900. Purportedly found at an estate sale in New York, the portrait is a nondescript oil painting of a young man, measuring 24 by 20 inches. It was consigned to the Young Gallery by a businessman who, perhaps understandably, “prefers to remain anonymous.”(154) The portrait was unaccompanied by any credible documentation, and the attribution to James Eddy (1806-1888), a Boston engraver and portrait painter, rests solely on an inscription supposedly discovered beneath a paper backing on the canvas's verso: “Portrait of Mr. Edgar A. Poe, Painted by Jas. Eddy, Bos[ton].” The likeness lacks all resemblance to the established life portraits of Poe.






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