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Pictures of William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare

THE PICTURES OF WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE - WHAT DID HE REALLY LOOK LIKE?
As Shakespeare did not come from a noble background no portraits of Shakespeare or any of his family were commissioned. Neither is there any evidence that Shakespeare commissioned his own portrait in his later, prosperous years.

There is no evidence of that a portrait was ever painted of Shakespeare whilst he was still alive, nor is there any written description of his physical appearance. The following images of Shakespeare were all apparently crafted after his death. The pictures portrayed of Shakespeare differ dramatically. Additional information can be found on the section regarding the First Folio.

THE DROESHOUT ENGRAVING - PICTURE OF WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE

The copper engraving of William Shakespeare by Martin Droeshout was published on the title page of the First Folio in 1623. The First Folio was produced by Hemminge and Condell, fellow actors of Shakespeare, as a dedication to the plays of William Shakespeare. Martin Droeshout was only 15 when Shakespeare died and it is doubtful whether he ever met the Bard. It has been assumed that descriptions of the man were provided by his fellow actors including  Hemminge and Condell, who were beneficiaries in Shakespeare's will. Since the discovery of the Sanders Portrait it would seem possible that due to the similarity of the collars and some features of the image that Droeshout could have used this as a basis for the engraving, applying artistic licence and contemporary descriptions to both age Shakespeare and show him in appropriate clothing. The Publishers of the First Folio altered it twice while it went through press. The image was darkened and a shadow was also added. 

WILLIAM MARSHALL ENGRAVING 1640 - PICTURE OF WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE

In 1640 an authorised edition of Shakespeare's poems included an engraving of Shakespeare by William Marshall. This image was similar to the Droeshout copper engraving but was reversed and the features altered. The verses by Ben Jonson, in the First Folio, apparently identify the portrait as Shakespeare but when the words were re-used in the 1640 second edition of Shakespeare's Sonnets they cast some doubt on the authenticity of the likeness by the addition of several question marks.

"This Shadowe is renowned Shakespear's? Soule of th'age
The applause? delight? the wonder of the Stage."

THE STRATFORD PORTRAIT - PICTURE OF WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE

The Stratford portrait so called as it housed at Stratford was owned by a Mr Hunt who was a town-clerk of Stratford. In 1861 a picture restorer called Mr Collins, who was employed in Stratford to clean and restore the effigies in the Holy Trinity Church noticed the portrait hanging in Mr. Hall's lobby. He offered to clean it and during its restoration he removed a full beard and moustache, which had been added to the original. The portrait showed a strong resemblance to the memorial bust of Shakespeare with the same style of dress and the curls in the hair. 

THE CHANDOS PORTRAIT - PICTURE OF WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE

This portrait has been attributed to Joseph Taylor but the exact date of the portrait is unknown. The full beard and moustache was favoured by Rubens after his arrival in England in 1630.It is believed to have been commissioned by the playwright and theatre manager William Davenant (16061668). The portrait receives its name as it was once in the possession of the Duke of Chandos. The Chandos portrait is by far the most attractive of the pictures of Shakespeare and is typical of English portraits and costumes of the period. The Chandros portrait has, however, been altered by Ozias Humphrey and Sir Joshua Reynolds. In 1856 it became the property of Britain's National Portrait Gallery. 

THE SANDERS PICTURE OF WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE

The image on the right is referred to as the Sanders Portrait and was discovered in Eastern Canada in the Spring of 2001. John Sanders is believed to have been a scene painter in Shakespeare's Theatre Company. The picture is oil on wood and the label on the back of the portrait claims that the picture is "Shakspere, born April 23rd 1564, died April 23rd 1616, aged 52, this likeness taken 1603, age at that time 39 years." Initial scientific tests indicate that the frame, paint and style is consistent with a 17th Century picture. There has been no re-touching and has not been painted on top of an older picture. Although the scientific results prove that the portrait is genuine, it cannot prove that the image is in fact Shakespeare as even if the label is also genuine it could only have been written sometime after his death.

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