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First S.P.R. Report on H.P.B.


The weak point of the evidence in the following case appears to us to lie in the absence of any proof of the identity of the paper on which the picture appeared with the blank sheet originally taken, since no special precautions to secure this are recorded.  Apart from this, the case has some interest, since it is not easy to procure a drawing of so much value as, according to Mr. Donovan and Mr. LeClear, this must possess.  The evidence, however, does not tell us whether the portrait produced was that of the person whose likeness was asked for.

From “Hints on Esoteric Theosophy,” No. 1, pp. 83-86.

The following are extracts from some of the papers, referring to this remarkable picture. --- H.X.

“City and County of New York, ss.

“William Q. Judge, being duly sworn, says that he is an attorney and counsellor-at-law, practising at the Bar of the State of New York; that he was present at the house of Madame H. P. Blavatsky, at No. 302, West 47th Street, New York City, on one occasion in the month of December, 1877, when a discussion was being held upon the subject of Eastern Magic, especially upon the power of an Adept to produce phenomena by an exercise of the will, equally or surpassing those of mediumship.  To illustrate the subject, as she had often done in deponent’s presence previously by other experiments, Madame Blavatsky, without preparation, and in full light, and in the presence and sight of deponent, Colonel Olcott, and Dr. L. M. Marquette, tore a sheet of common writing paper in two, and asked us the subject we would have represented.  Deponent named the portrait of a certain very holy man in India.  Thereupon laying the paper upon the table Madame Blavatsky placed the palm of her hand upon it, and after rubbing the paper a few times (occupying less than a minute) with a circular motion, lifted her hand and gave deponent the paper for inspection.  Upon the previously white surface there was a most remarkable and striking picture of an Indian Fakir, representing him as if in contemplation.  Deponent has frequently seen it since, and it is now in possession of Colonel Olcott.  Deponent positively avers that the blank paper first taken was the paper on which the picture appeared, and that no substitution of another paper was made or was possible.


“Subscribed and sworn to before me this 20th day of March, 1878.
                  “SAMUEL V. SPEYER, Notary Public, New York County.”


“State of New York, City and County of New York, ss.

“I, Henry A. Gumbleton, Clerk of the City and County of New York, and also Clerk of the Supreme Court for the said City and County, being a Court of Record, do hereby certify that Samuel V. Speyer, before whom the annexed deposition was taken, was at the time of taking the same a Notary Public of New York, dwelling in said City and County, duly appointed and sworn and authorised to administer oaths to be used in any Court in said State, and for general purposes; and that his signature thereto is genuine, as I verily believe.

“In testimony whereof I have hereunto set my hand, and affixed the seal of the said Court and County the 20th day of March, 1878.



“The undersigned, a practising physician, residing at No. 224, Spring Street, in the City of New York, having read the foregoing affidavit of Mr. Judge, certifies that it is a correct statement of the facts.  The portrait was produced, as described, in full light, and without there being any opportunity for fraud.  Moreover, the undersigned wishes to say that other examples of Madame Blavatsky’s power to instantly render objective the images in her mind, have been given in the presence of many witnesses, including the undersigned; and that, having intimately known that lady since 1873, when she was living with her brother at Paris, the undersigned can and does unreservedly testify that her moral character is above censure, and that her phenomena have been invariably produced in defiance of the conditions of mediumship, with which the undersigned is very familiar.



So much for the circumstances attending the production of the portrait; now let us see what are its artistic merits.  The witnesses are well qualified, Mr. O’Donovan being one of the best known of American sculptors, and, as alleged, an experienced art critic, and Mr. LeClear occupying a place second to none as a portrait painter: ---


“Sir, --- For the benefit of those among your readers who may be able to gather the significance of it, I beg to offer some testimony concerning a remarkable performance claimed by Colonel Olcott and Madame Blavatsky to have been done by herself without the aid of such physical means as are employed by persons usually for such an end.  The production referred to is a small portrait in black and white of a Hindu Fakir, which was produced by Madame Blavatsky, as it is claimed, by a simple exercise of will power.  As to the means by which this work was produced, however, I have nothing at all to do, and wish simply to say as an artist, and give also the testimony of Mr. Thomas LeClear, one of the most eminent of our portrait painters, whose experience as such has extended over 50 years --- that the work is of a kind that could not have been done by any living artist known to either of us.  It has all the essential qualities which distinguish the portraits by Titian, Masaccio, and Raphael, namely, individuality of the profoundest kind, and consequently breadth and unity of as perfect a quality as I can conceive.  I may safely assert that there is no artist who has given intelligent attention to portraiture, who would not concur with Mr. LeClear and myself in the opinion which we have formed of this remarkable work; and if it was done as it is claimed to have been done, I am at utter loss to account for it.  I may add that this drawing, or whatever it may be termed, has at first sight the appearance of having been done by washes of Indian ink, but that upon closer inspection, both Mr. LeClear and myself have been unable to liken it to any process of drawing known to us; the black tints seem to be an integral part of the paper upon which it is done.  I have seen numbers of drawings claimed to have been done by spirit influences, in which the vehicle employed was perfectly obvious, and none of them were of more than mediocre artistic merit; not one of them, certainly, could be compared at all with this most remarkable performance of which I write.


     “Studio Building, 51, West 10th Street, New York.”


“Dear Sir, - My experience has not made me at all familiar with magic, but I have seen much of what is termed spiritualistic phenomena.  Among the latter so-called spirit drawings, which were thought by the mediums and their friends very fine, but the best of which I found wanting in every element of art.

“I do not wish to be censorious, but an experience of 50 years in portrait-painting has perhaps made me exacting, when it is a question of paintings alleged to come from a supernatural source.  This much by way of preface to the subject of my present note.

 “I have seen in your possession a portrait in black and white of an Indian religious ascetic, which is entirely unique.  It would require an artist of very extraordinary power to reach the degree of ability which is expressed in this work.  There is a oneness of treatment difficult to attain, with a pronounced individuality, combined with great breadth.  As a whole, it is an individual.  It has the appearance of having been done on the moment --- a result inseparable from great art.  I cannot discover with what material it is laid on the paper.  I first thought it chalk, then pencil, then Indian ink; but a minute inspection leaves me quite unable to decide.  Certainly it is neither of the above.

“If, as you tell me, it was done instantaneously by Madame Blavatsky, then all I can say is, she must possess artistic powers not to be accounted for on any hypothesis except that of magic.  The tint seems not to be laid on the surface of the common writing paper upon which the portrait is made, but to be combined, as if it were, with the fibres themselves.  No human being, however much genius he might have, could produce the work, except with much time and painstaking labour; and, if my observation goes for anything, no medium has ever produced anything worthy of being mentioned beside it.


    “Studio Building, 31, West 10th Street, New York.”