The Museum Collection
Whitty Portrait of Edgar Allan Poe
Description:Poe collector and Poe Museum founder James H. Whitty (1859-1937) donated this portrait to the Poe Museum in 1921 and inscribed it with details concerning the history of the piece, which Whitty believed had been copied from a miniature oil painting by the Richmond artist William James Hubard (1807-1862) onced owned by Poe's sister, Rosalie Mackenzie Poe (1810-1874). The present piece seems to be a crayon and pencil drawing over a faint photomechanically produced image, but the inscription indicates it is a crayon drawing produced by the photographer Davies, who has signed the piece. Whitty's initials also appear twice on the work.
Although the oil painting from which this piece was copied is missing, it does not appear to have been executed during Poe's lifetime because it bears too strong a resemblance to later engravings of Poe. In The Portraits and Daguerreotypes of Edgar Allan Poe, author Michael Deas points out that the piece matches almost exactly a ca. 1855 wood engraving of Poe that was itself derived from an 1849 mezzotint of Poe by John Sartain.
Despite abundant evidence to the contrary, Whitty published the image in his 1911 collection The Complete Poems of Edgar Allan Poe with the caption "Edgar Allan Poe. The earliest known authentic portrait from a miniature in oil in possession of his sister Rosalie Poe. Taken at the old 'Lee Gallery' of Davies, Richmond, Va."