As of January 2020, The Providence Athenaeum now proudly owns its very own bust of Edgar Allan Poe. This was made possible by the efforts of both myself (Levi Leland, private Poe collector) and the Athenaeum, after the success of their “Ravenous” exhibit on Poe that opened January 31, 2019. The exhibit ran until May 2019, and was their most popular exhibit with over 1400 visitors. The Athenaeum reached out to me and asked if I would loan my pallid bust of Poe to them for the exhibit in exchange for two tickets to the opening night. Of course I agreed without hesitation!
Before I continue, allow me to talk about the provenance of the original bust and how I acquired my copy.
The original bronze-cast bust of Poe was sculpted by artist Edmond T. Quinn for The Bronx Society of Arts and Sciences and presented to New York City on January 19, 1909 in honor of the centennial of Poe’s birth. That bust remains today with The Edgar Allan Poe Cottage in The Bronx, New York.
The Bronx Society of Arts and Sciences gave the original plaster version of this bust to The Poe Museum in Richmond, Virginia in 1931. The Poe Museum made a copy of their newly acquired bust to display outside in their enchanted garden, keeping the original indoors. In 2008, ten additional copies of that original bust were made by The Poe Museum. Out of those copies, The Bronx Historical Society (which already owns the bronze bust), The Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Site, and The Edgar Allan Poe House and Museum in Baltimore all received one. The rest were purchased by private collectors in New York, Delaware, Tennessee, Louisiana, and Rhode Island (me). One was destroyed while in transit to the United Kingdom.
The success of the Ravenous exhibit proved just how popular Poe remains today, and how important it is for The Providence Athenaeum to celebrate their ties to him. It was for this reason I offered to extend the loan of my bust so they could make a copy for their collection to display among their pantheon of busts (considering Poe was not among those notable faces). The process was complete by October, 2019 and my bust was returned to me while construction began on the perch at the Athenaeum for their bust. As of September 2020, Poe is at The Providence Athenaeum on his permanent ledge right above the main entrance.