Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Bard -- Or Not The Bard

A new portrait of Shakespeare (left) has seen public light after a member of the Cobbe family saw an exhibition by the Folger Shakespeare Library of Washington came to London in 2006. The family member saw the famous Janssen portrait (right) and was stunned by the likeness to a portrait in his own collection, which was handed down by the descendants of the Earl of Southampton, which was a patron of Shakespeare's.

I love the sensitivity and yet probing look of the new painting. It is now believed that the Janssen portrait may have been an 18th century knock-off of the Cobbe portrait. The two most famous likenesses of Shakespeare that have garnered almost universal acceptance of authenticity are the Chandos portrait (left), which was painted during Shakespeare's life, and the engraving (below, right) on the title page of the posthumous First Folio in 1623, which was praised by the writer Ben Jonson as a terrific likeness of The Bard. Whichever is the best likeness, it is apparent that the man for all seasons had wonderful character in those eyes.

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