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"Emily Dickinson Her True Colors" New portrait by Guillermo Cuellar

Emily Dickinson seems not to like her only daguerreotype and perhap deny having it in a letter to Higginson in 1862.

Letter To T. W. Higginson from Emily Dickinson                                                                  July 1862

Could you believe me – without? I have no portrait but am small, like the Wren, and my Hair is bold, like the Chestnut Bur- and my eyes, like the Sherry in the Glass, that the Guest leaves-  Would this do just as well?

Thomas H. Johnson, The Letters of Emily Dickinson. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1958 pp 411. Letter 268.

In 1852, Emily enclosed her lock of hair (photograph below) in a letter to her friend Emily Fowler. The letter, which currently resides in the New York Library, reads, “I said when the Barber came, I would save you a little ringlet; and fulfilling my promise, I send you one today. I shall never give you any-thing again that will be half so full of sunshine as this wee lock of hair but I wish no hue more somber might ever fall to you—

All your gifts should be rainbows, if I owned half the skies, and but a bit of sea to furnish raindrops for me—

Dear Emily, this is all—It will serve to you remember me when locks are crisp and gray, and the quiet cap, and the spectacles, and ‘John Anderson my Joe’ are all that is left of me

Amherst College Special Collection and Archives provided me with this critical physical evidence necessary for the construction of the painting—the daguerreotype and a lock of hair. The lock of Emily’s hair is the single most significant personal piece of evidence that gives color to the portrait.  Guilleermo Cuellar 2004


Photograph of this lock of hair was taken by Guillermo Cuellar at the Amherst College Special Collection and Archives in 2004.