Poe  Portraits
* from the Family Vault *

Unknown Photos and Daguerres of the Poe Family


Most of the photos in this collection have never been published before. One is a portrait of Henry Herring, one of the two Poe relatives credited, along with Neilson Poe, for either negatively or positively handling Poe's mysterious death in Baltimore. Both Herring and Neilson Poe were 'in charge' of the startlingly hasty burial of Poe, before any of his immediate family were even alerted about his death.

Young Neilson Poe

(Young) Neilson Poe
1809 - 1884
Mature Neilson Poe

(Mature) Neilson Poe
 

The photo of a young Neilson Poe is also reproduced here for the first time since Mary Phillips' Poe biography and is fascinating because of Neilson Poe's very obvious resemblance to Edgar Poe. The photo of a mature Neilson Poe has never been displayed or printed before, to my knowledge. In that photo there seems to be no resemblance whatsoever between he and Edgar Poe, which is rather odd.

Neilson, Poe's second cousin, lived in Baltimore. While also living in Baltimore, Poe spent time at the home of Neilson and his wife, Josephine Emily Poe, who was Virginia Poe's half-sister. These cousins, Poe and Neilson, who certainly resembled each other, also shared a bitter distaste for each other, which culminated at the time of Poe's death when Neilson and Poe's uncle, Henry Herring, took control of Poe's care, and eventually of his body.


 
 
Josephine Poe
Josephine Poe

 


Virginia Poe, by Learned

Virginia Poe, by Learned
 
The current state of Poe biography proclaims that only one 'real portrait' of Virginia Poe exists. This is a watercolor of Virginia Poe purportedly taken on her deathbed by an unknown artist. While it has been inferred that Marie Louise Shew painted this portrait, there was such a plethora of fine artists who would have been happy to supply Poe with such a momento that the attribution to Shew seems absurd.

I have suggested Felix Darley as the artist because he was so close to both Poe and Virginia. But so were all the Sullys; Henry Inman; John, Samuel and Emily Sartain; the Peales; the Darleys and even the Neagles.

 
Virtually any member of any of these highly artistic families was more than competent enough to execute a lovely deathbed portrait of Virginia Poe.

I do believe the 'deathbed portrait' of Virginia to be authentic. However, I present the Learned portrait based on the deathbed portrait because it succeeds in giving us an idea of what Virginia really looked like when she was alive.

As I will make very clear in my book, there are many unknown portraits of Virginia Poe. I will be publishing a variety of portraits of Virginia in my Poe Mysteries book, including an unknown painting which indeed, shows us precisely what Virginia looked like. Indeed, she looked very much like this portrait by Learned.

In the Thomas Sully section of this web-site, I compare 'The Rundell Virginia' painting, by Thomas Sully, against the Learned portrait. When viewed together there can be no disputing the authenticity of the 'Rundell Virginia,' by Poe's lifelong friend, Thomas Sully.
 
 
Henry Herring (1791-1868) - There was 'no love lost' between Poe and his uncle by marriage, Henry Herring. Herring's first wife was Poe's aunt, Elizabeth Poe Herring, who died in 1822. Poe's 'Cousin Elizabeth' was the daughter of this union. Henry remarried and had another daughter, another 'Poe favorite cousin,' Mary Estelle Herring. Poe infuriated Herring by his 'special attentions' to his daughters, Elizabeth and Mary, but it seems Elizabeth was far closer to Poe than Mary throughout his life. It was for her that he wrote his poem, "To Elizabeth." Herring's second daughter, Mary Estelle, was gifted an inscribed copy of Poe's, "Poems," in 1831.
Henry Herring

Henry Herring (1791-1868)


A Poe 'Lizzie'

A Poe 'Lizzie'
 
Most interesting, perhaps, are the two photos of 'Lizzie' which appear for the first time on this web-site. This is certainly not a portrait of Elizabeth Herring (later Elizabeth Morton Smith) as we do have a portrait of her later in life, provided by Mary Phillips in her, "Poe: The Man." It certainly is a close member of the Poe/Herring families. Just 'which Lizzie' is represented here is impossible to know, unless some other Poe family member can provide us with an absolute identification.




This fascinating painting is printed here for the first time. All we really know for sure about it is that it is a 19th century work of art that was most likely originally on display in the parlor of Neilson Poe or Henry Herring.

That this man is "A POE," there can be no doubt. The provenance of this painting is exactly the same as The Suiter Virginia (not displayed on this website). Mrs. Antoinette Suiter found it in the home of Poe relations, where it had been from time immemorial.

What Poe Male is this?
              Poe's Father??
                        Poe's Brother??
 
Having seen and photographed this painting myself, it is my feeling that the painting dates to the early 1800's and that it may represent either David Poe, Jr., the father of Edgar Allan Poe, or William Henry Leonard Poe. Certainly, this is a portrait executed by a fine portrait painter, possibly Thomas Sully.

What is most interesting about this painting is the sitter's eyes - which appear, like Poe's own - to be gray, with flecks of greenish-blue. (For more details, see Unknown Portraits of Edgar Allan Poe and Virginia Poe)


'Muddy Look-alike'

'Muddy Look-alike'

Click to read more
'Muddy Look-alike' - The identity of this Poe-Clemm family member is unknown, but her strong resemblance to Poe's aunt, Maria Clemm is striking. We can rule out Muddy's sister, Elizabeth Poe Herring, as the subject, as she died in 1822, before photography was invented. The known wives to the brothers of David Poe, Sr. also died young. (George Poe, Sr.'s wife, Catherine, died in 1806.) Since this same woman reappears in another Baltimore based photograph taken at about the same time, c.1860-80, showing her at approximately 60-70 years of age, she is most likely of Maria Clemm's generation. Muddy was born in 1790, and lived until 1871, very close to the time this photograph was most likely taken. Since this cannot be Muddy's sister, this woman is most likely to be one of her first cousins.


Another 'Lizzie' - This photo, taken in Baltimore, is marked 'Lizzie' in very old pencil on the verso of the photo. Just 'which Lizzie' this may be in a family filled with Elizabeths, we cannot be sure. It clearly is not Poe's cousin, Elizabeth Herring.

 
Another 'Lizzie'

Another 'Lizzie'

 
Pretty Poe-sy

Pretty Poe-sy

 
Pretty Poe-sy - This lovely young woman's identity is unknown, but the striking resemblance between her and the two younger women in the photo to the right, below, 'Poe Family Women,' indicates that this may be an early photo of either the standing woman in the photo, or of the seated woman in the same picture. If this is not a younger image of one of these two women, it certainly is a daughter, niece or cousin to them.

 
Who are these unknown Poe family members? Have some fun with this and try to see who most resembles other members of the family. The resemblance of Maria Poe Clemm (Muddy: Poe's aunt, mother-in-law and confidante) to some of the women in these photos, is quite staggering. My feeling is that these women are very close relations to Poe. The standing woman's features are so reminiscent of "Poe's Muddy," (Maria Poe Clemm) that this is most likely what Muddy looked like when Poe began living with her in Baltimore. The elderly woman at the right of the photo so much resembles "Muddy" in old age, that the familial connections here must be very close indeed.

Poe Family Women

Poe Family Women

 
Elizabeth Herring 'Look-alike'

Elizabeth Herring 'Look-alike'
 
 
Elizabeth Herring 'Look-alike' - This very attractive Poe family woman may indeed be the same woman depicted in 'Pretty Poe-sy' (above). If not, the resemblance between them is striking. If it is not the same woman, the closeness of her appearance to Elizabeth Herring is so strong that she is likely one of the Herring-Poe Baltimore cousins, perhaps a daughter of Elizabeth Herring, or a daughter to Henry Herring or Neilson Poe. The photo is marked, "Baltimore." Again, this young woman has the perfect aquiline nose that both Virginia Poe and her half-sister, Josephine Poe, displayed. So, this young woman may be a niece to Virginia Poe.

From her appearance this handsome young woman is very likely a descendent of William Clemm, Jr., and his first wife, Harriet, and therefore, a direct descendent of Virginia, Josephine and their other unknown half-brothers and sisters.

In any case, this woman is most likely a cousin to both Edgar and Virginia Poe and quite possibly, Virginia's niece.

 


Poe-Clemm Lady, in brocade

Poe-Clemm Lady,
in brocade
 


Many of those who have seen this photo have thought it was Maria Poe Clemm, earlier in life than other photos we presently have of her. While indeed, there is a resemblance to Muddy, it is nowhere near as pronounced a resemblance as to the 'elderly woman' in the 'Poe Family Women' shot. This cannot be an early photograph of Muddy, as the clothing she wears dates the photo to the antebellum period. Muddy was born in 1790, and she would have been 70 years old in 1860.


 
Poe Family Member

Poe Family Member
Poe's Cousin? The photo was taken in Massachusetts and shows us an attractive, dark haired girl in the Poe-Herring lineage. It is possibly a daughter or cousin to Poe's cousin, Elizabeth, since the resemblance between them is so very strong.

 


The photograph of Poe's closest cousin, Mrs. Elizabeth Morton Smith, has not been reproduced since the 1920s. I present it here again because Poe was known to be extremely close to her, and her name is given by Poe biographers as someone who cared enough about both Poe and Virginia to visit them in Fordham during 'Virginia's last days.' In addition, Elizabeth Morton Smith is in the direct lineage of Mrs. A.S., the Poe family member who has been kind enough to allow me access to her wonderful collection of Poe family photos and memorabilia.

Elizabeth Herring Morton Smith lived from 1815-1889. She became widowed by a Mr. Tutt, and later married Edmund Morton Smith (photo below), Headmaster of a Baltimore boys' school. While this is the only photo that we can count on as representing Poe's favorite cousin, all these family photos came to me via her direct descendent.

Elizabeth Herring Morton Smith: Poe's 'fair cousin Elizabeth'

Elizabeth Herring
Morton Smith:
Poe's 'Fair Cousin Elizabeth'


Mr. Edmund Morton Smith; 2nd husband to Poe's cousin, Elizabeth Herring

Mr. Edmund Morton Smith
2nd husband to Poe's cousin,
Elizabeth Herring
Poe's 'Fair Cousin Elizabeth' was a most handsome woman, as we can see even in this photo of her (above) in late middle-age. It is of little wonder that her father, Henry Herring, sent Eliza off to Europe to keep her 'out of Poe's clutches!' This story is substantiated as 'family oral history' by Mrs. A.S. But Elizabeth remained 'true' to both Poe and Virginia, and is the only cousin known to have both visited the Poes at Fordham, and most importantly, the only family member known to have braved the frigid day in January 1847, when Virginia Poe was buried. The resemblance of many of these photos of younger women to Elizabeth Morton Smith gives us a very good idea of just why Poe was so attracted to his 'Fair Cousin Elizabeth!' She was indeed, 'fair,' fair-haired and of a fair complexion, as are several of the younger women in these photos who clearly carried her genetics.

 


Poe's 'Muddy' - Maria Poe Clemm

Poe's 'Muddy' -
Maria Poe Clemm
Rosalie Poe Mackenzie, Poe's sister

Rosalie Poe Mackenzie, Poe's sister

Poe's 'Muddy' - This is a photograph of Poe's 'Muddy,' produced c.1867. 'Muddy' was Poe's aunt, sister to his father, David Poe, Jr., and the mother of Poe's wife, Virginia Clemm Poe. This is a much softer and more flattering image than the earlier photo of 'Muddy' used by most Poe biographers. It is far easier to see the features of her daughter Virginia in this portrait, as well as similarities to Virginia's half-sister, Josephine. Also, the high and expansive forehead, the deep-set yet kind eyes, the typically 'Poe family' long, thin lips, and the pronounced aquiline nose show us that earlier in life, Maria Poe must have been very attractive. The strong resemblance to her niece, Rosalie Poe Mackenzie, is also quite strong in this portrait. Read more about Rosalie Poe.
 


All photos supplied by Edgar A. Poe's cousin, Mrs. A.S., with great appreciation for all her help.

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