Edgar Allan Poe statue

Edgar Allan poe statue, public art, Baltimore, Moses Jacob Ezekiel

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 art."

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

Cost: $10,000

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 and deteriation.

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 Kingdom).

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 Baltimore Ravens.

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