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Home :: Archive :: 2006 :: April ::
Chandos Portrait Probably Genuine
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 17.0305  Monday, 10 April 2006

From: 		Bill Lloyd <
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Date: 		Friday, 7 Apr 2006 12:11:50 EDT
Subject: 	Chandos Portrait Probably Genuine

If I may take the liberty of quoting it in full, here is a letter to the 
editor of the TLS just published. I quote the letter instead of giving 
the URL, as the letter will disappear from the free-access on-line TLS 
sampling in about a week, as has the letter to which it is a reply.

"Sir, -- Tarnya Cooper says that I am "wrong" to question the 1600-1610 
date attached to the Chandos portrait in the National Portrait Gallery's 
Searching for Shakespeare exhibition (Letters, March 31). But in default 
of decisive evidence this must be a matter of weighing up probabilities 
rather than achieving certainty. All the portraits discussed in Dr 
Cooper's essay on "Portrait Painting in England around 1600" are on wood 
panel, while "Chandos" is on canvas. Canvas was coming into use in 
England in the early 1600s, but I believe its use for portraits was not 
at all common until the later Jacobean period. And as Cooper herself 
observes in the catalogue, a "feigned oval" as early as 1610 "would have 
been a relatively new format", despite its deployment in the far more 
splendid 1595 portrait (on panel) of John Donne. She ignores my 
suggestion that "Chandos" could be a copy made from an ad vivum original 
for Burbage's King's Men successor Joseph Taylor in 1619/20, being 
acquired by Davenant after Taylor's death in 1652. The dates fit. This 
theory also has the merit of accommodating the testimonies of Vertue and 
Oldys. Abbreviation of Joseph Taylor's name to "Jo:" may explain 
Vertue's reference to him as "John".

It was precisely for the benefit of the exhibition's "general audience" 
that I felt that transcriptions of visible manuscript texts would be 
desirable. I am delighted to hear that these are available, though not 
in evidence at the Press View.

KATHERINE DUNCAN-JONES
Somerville College, Oxford."

To me the suggestion that the John Taylor of the tradition is a 
mis-expansion of "Jo: Taylor", i.e. King's actor Joseph Taylor, a known 
associate of Davenant, makes a lot of sense. The assignment of the 
Chandos to Painter-Stainer warden John Taylor is at best questionable. 
The painting is not signed, and there is no record of this John Taylor 
associating with Shakespeare or Davenant. Vertue said Betterton told him 
that Davenant told him of John Taylor-- and none of them spoke of this 
Painter-Stainer but rather of an actor in Shakespeare's company.

That there was a Painter-Stainer at that time named John Taylor, and 
that there was a member of the Children of Paul's in 1594-98 named John 
Taylor is not at all surprising. Taylor was then, as now, an extremely 
common surname, and John was the first name of 15-20% of the men in 
England. In Dave Kathman's Biographical Index of English Drama Before 
1660 <http://shakespeareauthorship.com/bd/>, there are five John Taylors 
with theatrical associations. None of them can be connected with 
Shakespeare's company, although there are relatively copious records of 
the significant members of that company. The suggestion that a portrait 
of Shakespeare was commissioned or owned by an otherwise unknown, 
marginal member of the company smacks of special pleading, and the 
suggestion that the Paul's boy grew up to be the Painter-Stainer is a 
desperate guess. All in all, it seems to me that the presence of a John 
Taylor in the Painter-Stainer's company, and in the Children of Paul's 
is mere coincidence, as there were John Taylors thick on the ground. If 
the Taylor in the Vertue pedigree is meant to be the actor Joseph, then 
there is no reason to assign the Chandos to Painter-Stainer warden John 
Taylor (for whom no comparative material survives), and the painter of 
the portrait should be considered unknown.

By the way, I don't think it's been mentioned here (though I could have 
overlooked it) that the book Searching for Shakespeare, based on the 
exhibition of that name and its catalog, has just been published by Yale 
University Press. If nothing else, it is filled with beautiful 
reproductions (with analyses) of the various Shakespeare portraits and 
other images and documents, as well as several useful essays. At $60 
it's a bit expensive in an absolute sense, but considering all the color 
reproductions (as well as the outrageous prices of current academic 
books) it's worth it.

Bill Lloyd

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