The Museum Collection

The Fatal Letter

ID #:
Creator: Unknown
Date: After 1820s (original oil by Newton painted in 1820s)
Format: watercolor on paper
Dimensions:
Source: Julia Sully
Collection: Poe Foundation, Inc.
Publisher:
Place of Publication:
Publish Date:

Description:

Julia Sully, granddaughter of Poe's friend Robert Sully, gave this small watercolor, a copy of Gilbert Stuart Newton's (1794-1835) oil "The Forsaken," to the Poe Museum in 1922. The watercolor was believed to have been owned by Edgar Allan Poe, who is said to have given it to Sully as a gift. Poe's biographers Mary Phillips and Hervey Allen both claimed that Poe, who is known to have sketched portraits as a boy, painted the picture himself. It has been proposed that Robert Sully, a professional portraitist, painted it, but the crude handling suggests it could the work of an amateur artist. Additionally, the insciption suggests the piece was given to Robert Sully by Poe.

Poe is known to have associated with several artists and engravers, including Robert Sully, Thomas Sully, John Sartain, John C. McDougal, and F.O.C. Darley; so there are a number of members of Poe's circle who could have produced such a watercolor. The reverse of the page bears the faint pencil inscription "Edgar A. Poe/ From Edgar A. Poe/ The Raven" and some now indiscernible lines.

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