Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The "Ultima Thule" Portrait

It is, perhaps, one of the most famous portraits in the world, so ubiquitous in print and online that no one seems to realize that the original has gone missing. I refer to the "Ultima Thule" Daguerreotype of Edgar Allan Poe, which was stolen along with its large black walnut frame from the photographer's store window at 33 Westminster Street, Providence, sometime in the late 1850's. Daguerreotypes, of course, are "one offs" -- there is no way, strictly speaking, to print another from them -- but one can take a fairly good, though far from perfect, Daguerreotype of a Daguerreotype, and it was through this means that the "Ultima Thule" portrait has come down to us today, and become so common. Indeed, the source for most reproductions is a third-generation copy at the Library of Congress, which bears its maker's attempt to obtain copyright in 1904.

But who stole the original of this Daguerreotype? And where is it now? Click here to find out more.

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