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Home :: Archive :: 2009 :: March ::
New Portrait of Shakespeare
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 20.0126  Friday, 20 March 2009

[1]  From:  Bruce Young <
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      Date:  Thursday, 19 Mar 2009 14:40:51 -0600
      Subj:  RE: SHK 20.0122 New Portrait of Shakespeare

[2]  From:  Hardy M. Cook <
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      Date:  Friday, March 20, 2009
      Subj:  Shakespeare Unfound(ed)?: Katherine Duncan-Jones in TLS

[3]  From:  Tom Reedy <
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      Date:  Thursday, 19 Mar 2009 17:55:33 -0500
      Suct:  Re: SHK 20.0122 New Portrait of Shakespeare

[4]  From:  Maureen E Mulvihill <
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      Date:  Thursday, 19 Mar 2009 19:44:36 -0400
      Suct:  'Shakespeare' portrait - its inscription

[5]  From:  Anne Cuneo <
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      Date:  Friday, 20 Mar 2009 10:04:08 +0100
      Suct:  SHK 20.0115 New Portrait of Shakespeare

[6]  From:  Will Sharpe <
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      Date:  Friday, 20 Mar 2009 18:04:30 +0000
      Suct:  Re: SHK 20.0122 New Portrait of Shakespeare


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:       Bruce Young <
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Date:       Thursday, 19 Mar 2009 14:40:51 -0600
Subject: 20.0122 New Portrait of Shakespeare
Comment:    RE: SHK 20.0122 New Portrait of Shakespeare

Thomas Hunter asks, "how we know that those who knew Shakespeare 
accepted the Droeshout perhaps along with the bust in Holy Trinity 
Church as resembling him."

I'm sure others will give more elaborate answers, but I'll start by saying:

(a) Concerning the Droeshout engraving: It appeared in the first folio, 
a volume that resulted from the efforts of two of Shakespeare's fellow 
players, who certainly knew him well. Also, facing the engraving in the 
first folio is a poem by "B. I." (presumably Ben Jonson) claiming that 
"the Graver," though not adequately conveying "his wit," "hath hit / His 
face" (that is, copied his physical appearance) accurately -- or at 
least has striven with Nature to see which would best display him.

(b) Concerning the bust in Holy Trinity Church: Though it may have been 
repaired many times since, it apparently was placed in the church 
between 1616 and 1623 (it's referred to by another poem in the first 
folio). Many of the churchgoers would have known Shakespeare and would 
have had some sense of how accurately the monument represented him.

Bruce Young

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:       Hardy M. Cook <
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Date:       Friday, March 20, 2009
Subject:    Shakespeare Unfound(ed)?: Katherine Duncan-Jones in TLS

http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/the_tls/article5931174.ece?&EMC-Bltn=QLVGDA

The link above is to Katherine Duncan-Jones's thoughts in TLS about the 
new "Shakespeare" portrait.

 From The Times Literary Supplement
March 18, 2009
Shakespeare Unfound(ed)?
The real identity of the sitter for the new "Shakespeare" portrait

Katherine Duncan-Jones

A claim by the eminent Shakespearean Stanley Wells that a Jacobean 
painting from the family collection of Mr Alec Cobbe, long held in 
Ireland, is a "life portrait" of Shakespeare, has been widely 
publicized. From April 23, Shakespeare's birthday, the painting will be 
the centrepiece of an exhibition at the Shakespeare Centre in 
Stratford-upon-Avon entitled Shakespeare Found. Meanwhile, an 
illustrated brochure by Mark Broch and Paul Edmondson outlines the basis 
of this exciting claim. Four surviving versions of the portrait, of 
which the "Cobbe" is claimed as the original or "prime", can be shown to 
date from around 1610. "Long traditions" are mentioned which identify 
the sitter as Shakespeare. However, no dates or sources are provided for 
these "traditions", which appear to relate chiefly to the version now 
owned by the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC, whose close 
similarity to Alec Cobbe's picture seems to have got this ball rolling. 
The Folger version has been altered at various times, apparently to make 
a resemblance to Shakespeare more plausible, for example in increasing 
the sitter's baldness. Other key points made in support of the claim are 
the alleged similarity of the "Cobbe" painting to the Droeshout 
engraving, the world-famous image that was the frontispiece portrait in 
the First Folio of 1623; and the possibility that it was originally 
owned by Shakespeare's earliest attested patron, the third Earl of 
Southampton.

The "Cobbe" portrait is a splendid painting, whose sparkling colours 
have benefited from recent restoration. The italic inscription at the 
top of the picture, "Principum Amicitias!" -- "the leagues of princes!" 
-- appears too large in scale, as well as highly unusual in its 
deployment of an exclamation mark, and was perhaps added later. The 
"Shakespeare" claim does not rely crucially on the authenticity of this 
motto from Horace's Odes, II.i, though the authors of the brochure 
remark that "it can be no coincidence that Horace's words were addressed 
to a playwright". It might have been helpful to examine the picture's 
reverse for further inscriptions or telling marks, but at the preview 
the back was veiled with a brown paper screen. But the man portrayed, 
with his elaborate lace collar and gold embroidered doublet, appears far 
too grand and courtier-like to be Shakespeare. Though a leading "King's 
Man", Shakespeare was no nobleman, and even his status as "gentleman" 
was repeatedly called in question by some of the heralds. (As John 
Davies of Hereford records, both Shakespeare and Burbage hoped for 
further preferment from James I, but didn't get it.) When players 
dressed above their rank offstage, it tended to get them into trouble. 
It is hard to believe that Shakespeare would have been rash enough to 
permit himself to be portrayed in such grand array.

The Wells team make much of an inscription on the "Folger" portrait 
describing the sitter's age as forty-six, and the picture's date as 1610 
-- the correct age for Shakespeare at that time. But the sitter himself, 
in all versions, looks much younger -- in the "Cobbe", almost boyish. . . .

[ . . . ]

An authentic portrait of Sir Thomas Overbury (1581-1613) was bequeathed 
to the Bodleian Library in Oxford in 1740. This picture bears a 
startling resemblance to the "Cobbe" painting (and its companions). 
Features such as a distinctive bushy hairline, and a slightly malformed 
left ear that may once have borne the weight of a jewelled earring, 
appear identical. Even the man's beautifully intricate lace collar, 
though not identical in pattern, shares overall design with "Cobbe", 
having square rather than rounded corners.  . . . The Bodleian's picture 
is considerably larger and its sitter is enclosed within a newly 
fashionable "feined oval" surround. Below this oval an earlier 
inscription, now barely legible, runs "Aetatis Suae 32 Anno Domini 
1613", and a later one, above, records the picture's bequest by Sir 
Thomas Overbury of Barton, in Warwickshire. This was the birthplace also 
of the donor's namesake and forebear -- a Warwickshire man, and a poet, 
but not a playwright.

The Wells team make much of the likelihood that the "Cobbe" portrait 
derives from the collection of Shakespeare's early patron, the third 
Earl of Southampton. But this is not so surprising. . . .

He [Overbury] was an arrogant and stubborn young man. According to 
Aubrey, it was "a great question who was the proudest", Sir Walter 
Ralegh or Sir Thomas Overbury -- but opinion favoured Overbury. . . . He 
had succeeded in offending both the Queen (at whom he and Carr are said 
to have laughed mockingly through a window) and the King. Four months 
later he was dead. Whether this was the result of repeated attempts to 
poison him, or, as Considine suggests, the ministrations of court 
physicians, we shall never know. But the upshot was that Sir Thomas 
Overbury immediately became a celebrity, his colourful story nourishing 
both court gossip and penny-dreadfuls. Many of his former friends and 
allies, including Southampton, would have wanted to possess visual 
mementoes of their friend. He was also mourned by members of his large 
family, and especially by his devoted father, Sir Nicholas. Perhaps it 
was he who commissioned the portrait later given to the Bodleian. It may 
have been painted by the younger Gheeraerts, possibly on the basis of an 
Isaac Oliver miniature, as hinted by the blue background. With its solid 
provenance -- first with the Overbury family, then with the library -- 
the "Bodleian" Overbury appears to be the "prime" version of which the 
"Cobbe" portrait and the rest are fine, but smaller, copies. . . .

For myself, I can live with the Droeshout and the Stratford funerary 
monument's "pork butcher" images of Shakespeare.

[3]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:       Tom Reedy <
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Date:       Thursday, 19 Mar 2009 17:55:33 -0500
Subject: 20.0122 New Portrait of Shakespeare
Comment:    Re: SHK 20.0122 New Portrait of Shakespeare

Thomas Hunter <
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 >

 >Bruce Young <
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 > writes,
 >
 >>...the Droeshout engraving, the one
 >>depiction (perhaps along with the bust in Holy Trinity Church) we
 >>know to have been accepted as resembling Shakespeare by those who
 >>knew him....
 >>
 >>Bruce Young
 >
 >I'm sorry, I must have missed class that day. Please advise how we know
 >that those who knew Shakespeare accepted the Droeshout perhaps along
 >with the bust in Holy Trinity Church as resembling him.
 >Where do I find that evidence documented? Thank you for your assistance.
 >
 >Thomas Hunter, Ph.D.

Ben Jonson in his prefatory poem to the FF wrote that the Droeshout 
looked like Shakespeare, and the family evidently accepted the bust as a 
good likeness for the memorial that was placed in the church they attended.

Tom Reedy

[4]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:       Maureen E Mulvihill <
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Date:       Thursday, 19 Mar 2009 19:44:36 -0400
Subject:    'Shakespeare' portrait - its inscription

What is curiously odd about this portrait -- what caught my eye, at 
once, as being perhaps 'wrong' -- is the use of the exclamation point in 
the two-word Latin inscription, a flourish which may have originated in 
early English-language editions of Horace (did Horace use such marks? I 
think not). I don't recall seeing the exclamation point in other 
inscriptions on 17thC canvas or wood-panel portraits, or 
portrait-miniatures (do you?). Also the script looks too pristine & 
artificial (almost template-perfect). The inscription is a later, modern 
addition, I wager; the writing lacks a contemporary feel. It's certainly 
a beautiful & lush picture, now displayed on the frontpage of the March 
10th New York Times (see link, below); but having taught Shakespeare 
seminars on two occasions over the years, I don't believe that this is a 
Shakespeare which I see before me. As viewers continue to comment & 
probe, more information will ('Will'?) come to light. MEM

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/10/world/europe/10shakespeare.html?ref=books

PS: My observation re the portrait's exclamation mark and also its 
pristine (template-like) script was originally posted on the ExLibris 
List, 10 March 2009. I am pleased to see similar remarks in today's TLS 
(Thursday, 19 March 2009). Best wishes, MEM

[5]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:       Anne Cuneo <
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Date:       Friday, 20 Mar 2009 10:04:08 +0100
Subject: New Portrait of Shakespeare
Comment:    SHK 20.0115 New Portrait of Shakespeare

I was relieved to read that I am not the only sceptic here.

When I think how unbelieving Stanley Wells has been towards all kinds of 
theories pertaining to the Shakespeare age and to Shakespeare's life, I 
am flabbergasted to see him taking his wishes for reality, as one says 
in French.

My first reaction was that the man in the portrait looks rather young to 
be a 46 year old man of the time. Many portraits of older Renaissance 
men omit their wrinkles, of course, but you still see they are not so 
young, in the eyes for instance. This man IS younger.

I do not doubt the portrait dates from 1610, that is what science can 
ascertain -- what I don't get is the leap of faith which concludes: this 
is Shakespeare. 90% of certainty, sais Mr. Wells.

I have looked and listened well to the video where he explains why he 
thinks the portrait is of Shakespeare: it is all conjecture. He says so 
himself, and then all of a sudden he slips into certainty.
This reminds me of A.L. Rowse's theory about the Dark Lady. Rowse 
assembled more circumstantial evidence for Emilia Bassano being 
Shakespeare's mistress than anybody about any of the other candidates. 
Everything is very logical -- so logical that at some point Rowse went 
from circumstantial to certainty. Emilia Bassano was the Dark Lady. He 
was ridiculed by critics about this, there was much finger-pointing, 
including by Mr. Wells I think.

I wrote Rowse's research into a novel (at his suggestion), and 
personally I think Emilia Bassano might well be the Dark Lady but I do 
NOT take the leap of faith, because the final proof is still missing. I 
think it's just the same about this portrait.

All through those 20 minutes, Mr. Wells goes from speculation to 
certainty, to speculation, to certainty etc.

And I find rather pathetic that as hard a critic of speculation as Mr. 
Wells falls into the trap of believing his desire is reality. Pathetic 
and reassuring, I might add.

Anne Cuneo

[6]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:       Will Sharpe <
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 >
Date:       Friday, 20 Mar 2009 18:04:30 +0000
Subject: 20.0122 New Portrait of Shakespeare
Comment:    Re: SHK 20.0122 New Portrait of Shakespeare

 >Bruce Young <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 > writes,
 >
 >>...the Droeshout engraving, the one
 >>depiction (perhaps along with the bust in Holy Trinity Church) we
 >>know to have been accepted as resembling Shakespeare by those who
 >>knew him....
 >>
 >>Bruce Young
 >
 >I'm sorry, I must have missed class that day. Please advise how we know
 >that those who knew Shakespeare accepted the Droeshout perhaps along
 >with the bust in Holy Trinity Church as resembling him.
 >Where do I find that evidence documented? Thank you for your assistance.
 >
 >Thomas Hunter, Ph.D.

Why so sarcastic, Thomas? I think Bruce Young's comments are perfectly 
reasonable and I'm sure he would better respond to a courteous, rather 
than a caustic, request for clarification. I suppose the best evidence 
is the commendatory verse supplied by Ben Jonson -- who incontestably 
knew Shakespeare and what he looked like -- which accompanies the 
engraving in the Folio, in which he claims that the likeness is exact. 
Of course, he could either be a) lying b) ostensibly telling the truth, 
but wrong because he'd forgotten exactly what his erstwhile friend had 
looked like in the seven years since his death or c) correct. We'll 
never know but 'c' certainly seems at least reasonable. As for the Holy 
Trinity monument, Leonard Digges' reference to it in the Folio means it 
must have been erected either prior to 1623 or 1623 or thereabouts when 
it is likely that his wife (who died in August 1623) was still alive, 
and Shakespeare's two daughters and son-in-law, John Hall, certainly 
were. Perhaps when it went up all of them cried in unison about how it 
bore no resemblance whatsoever to the man they knew, but, again, it is 
unlikely.

Cordially,
Will Sharpe

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