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The Oval Portrait

3.81  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,615 Ratings  ·  96 Reviews
The Oval Portrait is a short horror story written by Edgar Allan Poe and first published in 1842. Our protagonist takes refuge in an abandoned castle and discovers a room with a series of paintings accompanied by a small book describing them. His attention is attracted by an oval portrait depicting a young woman of rare beauty. The book tells of the artist falling in love ...more
24 pages
Published 2007 (first published November 13th 1842)
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Books That I Rated "5 Stars"
44th out of 402 books — 59 voters
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Great Short Stories
41st out of 50 books — 12 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,234)
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Glenn Russell
May 22, 2015 Glenn Russell rated it it was amazing

Since there are dozens of reviews already posted here, in the spirit of freshness I will focus on how Edgar Allan Poe uses this tale to convey the power of art and aesthetic experience for both artist and viewer. Below are my observations along with several of the author’s quotes.

The narrator enters a room situated in a remote turret of a Italian mountain chateau, a room filled with tapestry and trophies “together with an unusually great number of very spirited modern paintings, in frames of ric
Jul 10, 2014 Exina rated it really liked it
The narrator "takes refuge in an abandoned castle and discovers a room with a series of paintings accompanied by a small book describing them. His attention is attracted by an oval portrait depicting a young woman of rare beauty."

The story is eerie and tragic, and despite its shortness, fully captivates the reader.

This is a short-short, only two pages, but manages to pack one story inside another &, unfortunately, left me unsatisfied. The ending was too obvious, too early, & lost its impact. It's a cool idea no matter how it is interpreted; (view spoiler) They're not mutually exclusive, but could be.

I looked it up on Wikipedia becau
Scarlet Cameo
Un cuento que, de tan corto, te deja deseando más. El final aunque abrupto se puede inferir a la mitad del relato, pero que hace un trayecto tan apasionado que es dificil no engancharse.

Por momentos recuerda al Retrato de Dorian Gray (más bien, el Retrato de Dorian Gray recuerda a este cuento. Mea culpa por haber leído primero a Wilde) aunque la intensidad con la que escribe Poe hace que la esencia se sienta diferente.

Andrei Tamaş
Dec 21, 2015 Andrei Tamaş rated it really liked it
Artistul sacrifică totul pentru artă. "Nuvela" (după cum a fost denumită) este de factură romantică şi reprezintă o anomalie a Meşterului Manole în domeniul pictural. "El era o fire pasionată, studios, auster, care, de fapt, se căsătorise dinainte cu Arta. Ea, iubind şi îndrăgind totul; urând doar Arta care-i era rivală."
Viji Sarath (Bookish endeavors)
A wonderful short story. A man stays overnight in a chateau where he happens to see an oval portrait of a lady,brimming with life. It was so lively that he had to close his eyes. He then reads the story of that portrait. It was of a lady who was the lover of the painter. He became deeply immersed in his work and continued painting her for days. "He would not see that the tints which he spread upon the canvas were drawn from the cheeks of her who sat beside him." When he finished his work, he say ...more
Oct 27, 2013 Jarrett rated it really liked it
Shelves: big-50-2013
One of the themes in "The Oval Portrait" is submissiveness. The wife in the book didn't like what the painter was doing but she did it anyway. She also did it with a smile because she knew that it was something that her husband loved to do.
A symbol in the short story is "love" even though the wife didn't like what her husband was doing she helped him anyway showing that she had a greta love for him.
I think that what Edgar Allan Poe was trying to say is that if you love some but don't lie wh
Alaide Mo
Feb 09, 2016 Alaide Mo rated it really liked it
So sad :(.
I believe that all women over which wrote Poe are strange. All are beautiful and they die in strange way. With this short story, horror is combined with romanticism and art. It is an excellent combination.
Edlira Dibrani
Aug 08, 2015 Edlira Dibrani rated it really liked it
A horror story where the protagonist goes in a castle and there finds out a lot of portraits, but he is amazed but an oval portrait, and he reads the letter that is with it, talking about the girl in it.

" and crying with a loud voice, 'This is indeed Life itself' , turned suddenly to reard his beloved."
Mariana Castaño
Jan 29, 2016 Mariana Castaño rated it it was amazing
Precioso e inigualable relato tal como su versión extendida ''Life in Death''
Una imagen que al parecer está más viva que ella es el foco central de esta historia en donde el arte, la locura, la vida, la belleza y la muerte parecen encontrarse espontánea y armoniosamente para dar lugar a tan excelente narración.
Rae Kozma
Oct 06, 2014 Rae Kozma rated it it was amazing
Totally awesome.
Ebster Davis
Jul 22, 2015 Ebster Davis rated it really liked it
(view spoiler) ...more
Γιώτα Παπαδημακοπούλου
Σκοτεινά κάστρα... σκοτεινά μυστικά... αλήθειες κρυμμένες πίσω από ζωγραφισμένα πρόσωπα και ψεύτικα χαμόγελα, μια σύντομη ιστορία τρόμου που αποδεικνύει πως η αλήθεια δεν πεθαίνει και δεν θάβεται, ακόμα κι αν πιστεύουμε το αντίθετο. Γιατί η δικαίωση ζητάει πάντα να ξεπληρωθεί και να λάβει όσα της αρμόζουν. Μυστηριώδης, γοητευτική, συγκινητική, σπαραχτική, η ιστορία αυτή είναι από εκείνες που κάθε φορά μιλάει στην καρδιά μου.
Mar 30, 2015 Natalie rated it really liked it
A wounded traveler chances upon an abandoned chateau. He establishes himself in a room that is covered with paintings. With one twist of his candelabra he catches sight of a mysterious oval painting. The traveler is struck by the life-like quality of the young lady portrayed in the painting.

In a small booklet he finds the story of the enigmatic painting. An artist frenetically paints the love of his life. So desperately does he paint that he doesn't notice what is happening to his model. He doe
David Doyle
Sep 18, 2013 David Doyle rated it really liked it
Shelves: horror
I enjoyed this story. An injured man takes refuge in an abandoned mansion. He admires the artwork on the wall, but one picture in particular captures his attention for its "absolute life-likeliness of expression". On the bed is a book which gives the story about this painting, its subject and its creator. It's tragic, and explains why the painting is so captivating.
Elinor  Loredan
Oct 29, 2012 Elinor Loredan rated it liked it
Shelves: classic, 2012
I'm not sure I would call it a 'horror story', but one on what happens when we become too absorbed in our dreams and goals. The painter, seeing in shock that the painting of his wife has reached its ultimate state, finally looks at his wife, only to realize that it is too late, and he has lost her, the thing in his life that really mattered.
Sylvia McIvers
Mar 10, 2014 Sylvia McIvers rated it really liked it
Really love those gothic tales.

A man becomes sick while hiking through the mountains. He finds refuge in a decaying castle. His valet (you know you can never go hiking w/out your valet, right?)sets him up in the smallest bedroom, complete with decaying tapestries, adorned with lovely pictures.

The most beautiful picture has a strange story behind it.

Gothic Checklist:
Ruined building - check. Delightfully creepy place for a sick man to recuperate. Ruined tapestries are just icing on the cake.

Dean MacKinnon-Thomson
Jun 16, 2013 Dean MacKinnon-Thomson rated it it was amazing
Shelves: classics
A perfect piece honing in on a very specific aspect of the gothic genre. In this Poe deliberately makes a point of hinging everything around the role of the painted portrait in his Gothic genre.

If you like shorty-short stories, gothic novels and/or just want to learn more you really must give this a peruse,.
Vladana Perlić
Apr 30, 2015 Vladana Perlić rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-english
Today I watched Godard's "Vivre Sa Vie", in which one of the characters reads an excerpt from "The Oval Portrait". I thought it was beautiful so I had to read the whole story. I must say I wasn't disappointed.
Jessica Oban
Apr 26, 2013 Jessica Oban rated it it was amazing
Probably the most frightening and surprising story I've ever read. I literally jumped as I read the final words.
Aug 24, 2012 Joanne rated it it was amazing
beautiful! this condensed story tells so much through its poetic language.
Feb 03, 2014 Rosia_lady rated it really liked it
Intersting and misterious story. It is a little bit creepy but wonderful.
Emilie Andersen
Feb 04, 2016 Emilie Andersen rated it liked it
Shelves: books-for-school
It was short but I liked it :).
Marta Dunphy-Moriel

The tale begins with an injured narrator seeking refuge in an abandoned mansion in the Apennines, with no explanation for his wound. He spends his time admiring the works of art decorating the strangely-shaped room and perusing a volume which “purported to criticize and describe” the paintings. He eventually discovers a painting which shocks him with its extreme realism, which he refers to as “absolute life-likeliness of expression”. He spends a moment (“for an hour, perhaps”, the reader
Mar 18, 2011 sabisteb rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: hörspiele
WOW, dieser Teil hat es in sich. Poe bricht in Tempeltons Haus ein, dabei entdeckt er ein Portrait von Lucy Monahan, Leonies verstorbener Freundin, die sie im Sarg nach new Orleans überführte in Edgar Allan Poe - Sturz in den Mahlstrom (Edgar Allan Poe 5) und eine einäugige Schwaze Katze (siehe Edgar Allan Poe - Die schwarze Katze (Edgar Allan Poe 2)) Er entdeckt Leonie im Keller und will sie retten, dabei entdeckt er die Leiche von George Apos Bruder.

Spoiler Spoiler

Diesmal erfahren wir viel Neu
Jan 20, 2015 Pboswell rated it it was amazing
Too often, we destroy those who love us most. Never acknowledging all they sacrifice in order to love us. He was so full of life, she loved the way he loved life. But she soon realized she was wrong. He loved his paintings - not life itself, but how he could create life in his paintings. He loved sucked the life out of his wife for the beauty of an image. His image of her. She gave him until she had no more to give. And he took it, all.

He loved her to death.
Janith Pathirage
Jan 09, 2015 Janith Pathirage rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This's not a spine chilling thriller but surely taps into the dark side of one's imaginations. I think Poe's objective of writing this story is to portrait the relationship between art and life, how much his own work means to an artist. And Poe has done it successfully in his own fashion. A different story, not the usual Edgar Allan Poe stuff but highly entertaining as always...
Jun 01, 2015 Shacoria rated it it was ok
This story is fairly short. I kind of saw the ending coming, but it was still sad. I think the message of this story is that you should not neglect those that you love. Also, sometimes we can't see that we are hurting those that we love and when we realize that we are, it is often too late. This is another good short story by Poe.
Nov 09, 2015 dejah_thoris rated it really liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
Read for my MOOC, and now one of my favorite Poe stories because it reminds me of the uncertainty principle in creating a surrogate of any kind. The closer you get to perfection, the less it resembles the reality because the reality shifts as your creation changes. Very metaphysical.
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The name Poe brings to mind images of murderers and madmen, premature burials, and mysterious women who return from the dead. His works have been in print since 1827 and include such literary classics as “The Tell-Tale Heart,” “The Raven,” and “The Fall of the House of Usher.” This versatile writer’s oeuvre includes short stories, poetry, a novel, a textbook, a book of scientific theory, and hundr ...more
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