Sarah Helen Whitman (Edgar Allen Poe’s fiance) by John Nelson Arnold, 1869 (after a portrait by Cephas Thompson in 1838)
In later life, Sarah Helen Whitman enjoyed a modest reputation as a poet and as the former fiance of Edgar Allen Poe. Admirers asked her for copies of her painted likeness. She responded to their request by having copies made of a portrait painted by Cephas Giovanni Thompson (1809-1888) in 1838, when she was a young widow of 35.
She bequeathed the original painting by Thompson to the Providence Athenaeum. Brown University’s version of this portrait was painted after the Thompson original by John Nelson Arnold, who rendered his copy in an oval format. Arnold lived in Providence and painted portraits of a number of governors and distinguished Rhode Island citizens.