This is a portrait of Gothic genius Edgar Allan Poe.
The best-known images of Poe are from his final couple of years (he was only forty when he died), when poverty, illness, alcohol and the death of his wife had left him in a pretty wretched state. I suppose it suited later publishers’ purposes to keep portraying him this way – as a tortured-looking soul on the edge of madness – but if you read contemporary descriptions of Poe in his prime you get a different picture:
Mr. Poe was about five feet eight inches tall, and had dark, almost black hair, which he wore long and brushed back in student style over the ears. It was as fine as silk. His eyes were large and full, gray and piercing…His nose was long and straight, and his features finely cut. The expression about his mouth was beautiful. He was pale and had no color. His skin was of a clear, beautiful olive. He had a sad, melancholy look. He was very slender when I first knew him, but had a fine figure, an erect, military carriage, and a quick step. But it was his manner that most charmed. It was elegant. When he looked at you it seemed as if he could read your very thoughts…
I’ve tried to capture a bit of this spirit, while (hopefully) keeping the likeness recognisable.
The background is a pattern of white lilies, which I thought would be an appropriate motif given Poe’s ever-so-slight obsession with death.