This is a very short story about a man who is injured and so his valet breaks into a closed-up house to find shelter for the night. The master chooses a bed in a room full of art that also happens to have a book on the pillow that gives the history of each painting. In the middle of the night, he moves the candelabrum and a portrait that was previously in shadow is revealed. He is so disturbed by the eerily life-like yet beautiful portrayal of young woman that he turns to the book for the history of this work. What he finds is of course a tragic story.
She was a maiden of rarest beauty, and not more lovely than full of glee. And evil was the hour when she saw, and loved, and wedded the painter. He, passionate, studious, austere, and having already a bride in his Art; she a maiden of rarest beauty, and not more lovely than full of glee; all light and smiles, and frolicsome as the young fawn; loving and cherishing all things; hating only the Art which was her rival; dreading only the pallet and brushes and other untoward instruments which deprived her of the countenance of her lover. It was thus a terrible thing for this lady to hear the painter speak of his desire to portray even his young bride. But she was humble and obedient, and sat meekly for many weeks in the dark, high turret-chamber where the light dripped upon the pale canvas only from overhead.
This is an incredibly well-built story for its very short length. And the emotion evoked in these brief words is as good as any of Poe's longer works. I am always able to conjure a vivid mental picture while reading Poe which is one of the reasons I enjoy his stories more than many other short stories.
I've avoided some of the longer stories for a while here but I'm really dying to re-read The Murders in the Rue Morgue so let's be ambitious!
Avoiding soul-consuming art,