Edgar Allan Poe statue
Public Art : Edgar Allan Poe statue
Sculptor: © Moses Jacob Ezekiel
Description: The bronze statue of a seated Edgar
Allan Poe was the last work of Ezekiel. Poe is depicted as though intently playing in his head, one of
his complicated internal ryhmes.
Artist's Statement: " As Edgar Allan Poe was the
one poet we have whose poetry does not seem to be based on anything that existed before his own, I conceived the
idea of representing him as seated listening in rapt attention to a divine melody and new rhythm in his
Date Unveiled: Around 500 people attended the
unveiling of the Poe statue on October 20th, 1921. In attendance was Mrs Turnbull (the president of the Poe
Association) who handed over the statue to the City of Baltimore and the then mayor Mr Broening. Miss Eleanor Poe
and Miss Frances Turnbull both unveiled the statue as Poe's "Israfel" was sung.
Commissioned by: The Edgar Allan Poe Memorial
Association of Baltimore
Location: The statue of Edgar Allan Poe was
originally erected in Wynman Park on 29th Street (near Howard Street) in 1921, but in 1983 it was relocated
to the Law Center Plaza at University of Baltimore, near the Penn Station, due to its continual vandalism
A Series Of Unfortunate Events: I am pretty sure
Edgar Allan Poe would have been bemused by the series of unfortunate events associated with his statue.
In 1907 Baltimore's Women's Literary Club, under the direction of Mrs John Wrenshall, decided
to set up the Edgar Allan Poe Memorial Association to raise money for a statue to be erected in honour of the great
writer. They were hoping to have the statue finished in time for the centennial of Poe's birthday (1909) but lack
of public interest meant they had insufficent funds for the deadline. A Mr Orrin C Painter eventually came to the
rescue and paid the shortfall.
Mrs Wrenshall in the meantime had chosen the Italian based American sculptor and Civil War
soldier, Moses Jacob Ezekiel to create the work.
The first model of the statue was completed in 1913 but on its way to the foundry in Berlin to be
cast in bronze it was completely destroyed in a fire at the custom house on the border of Austria and Germany.
The plaster model was not insured.
Undeterred Ezekiel started all over again but as luck would have it, an earthquake hit Rome in 1915
breaking the second model to bits. This model was also uninsured.
Again Ezekiel soldiered on. The third model was completed in 1916 and was entirely different to
that of his first. The pedestal was to be made from grey volcanic stone from Merino but was
later discovered to be actually concrete and it was to be inscripted once the association agreed on the
wording. That was easier said than done.
In January 1917, it was announced that the completed statue would not be shipped to America until
the Great War (World War I) had ended and it was safe to do so. Sadly, a few months later Moses Jacob Ezekiel died
from pneumonia and it would be another 4 years before the statue reached American shores.
In 1921 it arrived by ship to New York and was then transported to Baltimore by rail and stored at
the Camden Yards until a suitable location for Poe was found.
As you would expect this was no easy task. The first location suggested by the Poe Memorial
Association was rejected by the Municipal Art Commission and so too the second location. It would take months
before Wyman Park was agreed apon.
Following the unveiling it was discovered that there wasn't just one, but two glaring typos carved
into the pedestal. There was a missing "i" on the word "Dreaming" in the quotation from "The Raven" and a "s" added
to "mortal" in the famous passage "Dreaming dreams no mortal(s) ever dared to dream before."
On the evening of June the 1st, 1930, a Mr Edmond Fontaine, a great Poe admirer,
couldn't take it anymore and armed with a hammer and chisel proceded to rectify the problem. Within a few
minutes he had successfully chipped off the offending "s". He was half way through cleaning off the black
paint that vandals had poured over the statue when police rolled up. They of course had the courtesy of waiting
until Fontaine had completely cleaned the statue before arresting him for defacing public property.
After spending a night in jail he was released. A petition by Poe fans begging the Park Board to show leniency on
Mr Fontaine resulted in the charges being dropped.
It wasn't until 1985, when the statue had been removed from the park and relocated to the Law
Center Plaza that a new and correctly printed bronze plaque was added.
Trivia: For over thirty years Moses Jacob Ezekiel had
an elaborate studio in the ruins of the Bath of Diocletian in Rome .
The sculptor was awarded an Italian knighthood for his bust of Franz Listz and given the rank
of "Chevalier" by King Victor Emmanuel . He was/is often mistakenly referred to as "sir" which is
incorrect interpretation of the Italian knighthood ("sir" is given only to those knighted in the United
Ezekiel offered to reduce the cost of the Poe statue by half , from $20,000 to $10,000 , because
Poe was a fellow Virginian.
A few years after his death, Moses Jacob Ezekiel's body was shipped from Italy and buried at
Arlington's National Cemetery to be laid along side his old confederate comrades.
During the NFL playoff season Edgar Allan Poe can be found bathed in purple light in honour of the