The J. Paul Getty Museum

Portrait of Edgar Allan Poe

Object Details


Portrait of Edgar Allan Poe


Unknown maker, American




late May–early June 1849



Object Number:



12.2 × 8.9 cm (4 13/16 × 3 1/2 in.)

See more

See less

Object Description

"A noticeable man clad in black, the fashion of the times, close-buttoned, erect, forward looking, something separate in his bearing ...a beautifully poetic face."
-Basil L. Gildersleeve to Mary E. Phillips, 1915 (his childhood recollection of Poe)

Many of Edgar Allan Poe's contemporaries described him as he appears in this portrait: a darkly handsome and intelligent man who possessed an unorthodox personality. Despite being acknowledged as one of America's greatest writers of poetry and short stories, Poe's life remains shrouded in mystery, with conflicting accounts about poverty, alcoholism, drug use, and the circumstances of his death in 1849. Like his life, Poe's poems and short stories are infused with a sense of tragedy and mystery. Among his best-known works are: The Raven, Annabel Lee, and The Fall of the House of Usher.

This daguerreotype was made several months before Poe's death at age 40. After his wife died two years earlier in 1847, Poe turned to two women for support and companionship. He met Annie Richmond at a poetry lecture that he gave when visiting Lowell, Massachusetts. Although she was married, they developed a deep, mutual affection. Richmond is thought to have arranged and paid for this portrait sitting. Poe is so forcibly portrayed that historians have described his appearance as disheveled, brooding, exhausted, haunted, and melancholic.

For reasons that are not entirely clear, relatively few daguerreotypes of notable poets, novelists, or painters have survived from the 1840s, and some of the best we have are by unknown makers. The art of the daguerreotype was one in which the sitter's face usually took priority over the maker's name, and many daguerreotypists failed to sign their works. This is the case with the Getty's portrait of Poe.
Adapted from, Interpretive Content Department, 2009; and Weston Naef, The J. Paul Getty Museum Handbook of the Photographs Collection (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1995), 35. © 1995 The J. Paul Getty Museum.

- 1984

Arnold Crane, American, 1932 - 2014, sold to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 1984.

Experimental Photography: The First Golden Age 1851-1889 (April 11 to June 25, 1989)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum (Malibu), April 11 to June 25, 1989
Nineteenth Century American Photography (October 26, 1991 to March 29, 1992)
  • The Amon Carter Museum (Fort Worth), October 26, 1991 to January 5, 1992
  • Mead Art Museum (Amherst), February 1 to March 29, 1992
Little Pictures (December 7, 1993 to March 6, 1994)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum (Malibu), December 7, 1993 to March 6, 1994
Arrows of Time: Photographs from the J. Paul Getty Museum (January 24 to April 2, 1995)
  • Armand Hammer Museum of Art and Cultural Center at UCLA (Los Angeles), January 24 to April 2, 1995
The Art of the Daguerreotype (April 14 to July 12, 1998)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), April 14 to July 12, 1998
Fame After Photography (July 9 to October 5, 1999)
  • The Museum of Modern Art (New York), July 9 to October 5, 1999
In Focus: The Portrait (January 27 to June 14, 2009)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), January 27 to June 14, 2009
Portraits of Renown: Photography and the Cult of Celebrity (April 3 to September 2, 2012)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), April 3 to September 2, 2012
In Focus: Daguerreotypes (November 3, 2015 to March 20, 2016)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), November 3, 2015 to March 20, 2016
Education Resources
Education Resources

Education Resource




Looking at Portraits: Reading Poe

Students compare a daguerreotype of Edgar Allan Poe with Poe's writings in an effort to discover the character of this mysterious author.

Visual Arts; English–Language Arts


Two-Part Lesson