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Home :: Archive :: 2009 :: May ::
New Portrait of Shakespeare?
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 20.0243  Monday, 18 May 2009

[1] From:   Matthew Cossolotto <
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     Date:   Friday, 15 May 2009 12:54:52 -0400
     Subj:   RE: SHK 20.0237 New Portrait of Shakespeare?

[2] From:   Stanley Wells <
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     Date:   Saturday, 16 May 2009 12:20:14 +0100
     Subj:   RE: SHK 20.0237 New Portrait of Shakespeare?

[3] From:   Hardy M. Cook
     Date:   Monday, May 18, 2009
     Subj:   SHK 20.0237 New Portrait of Shakespeare?


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:       Matthew Cossolotto <
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Date:       Friday, 15 May 2009 12:54:52 -0400
Subject: 20.0237 New Portrait of Shakespeare?
Comment:    RE: SHK 20.0237 New Portrait of Shakespeare?

There is no real evidence that this portrait is of Shakespeare and 
there's the inconvenient fact that the sitter looks strikingly like 
Overbury.

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:       Stanley Wells <
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Date:       Saturday, 16 May 2009 12:20:14 +0100
Subject: 20.0237 New Portrait of Shakespeare?
Comment:    RE: SHK 20.0237 New Portrait of Shakespeare?

Lyn Brenner's offensively dismissive comment might be justified if she 
gave any sign of having considered the evidence that has been adduced. A 
summary is given on the 'Shakespeare Found' website of the Shakespeare 
Birthplace Trust. The matter is treated at greater length in the context 
of a fresh examination of the relationship between Shakespeare and 
Southampton in the book _Shakespeare Found! A Life Portrait at Last, 
Portraits, Poet, Patron, Poems_, recently published jointly by the Cobbe 
Foundation and the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust under my editorship. The 
book also offers reprints of the narrative poems and of those sonnets 
that are clearly addressed to a male.

I might also point out that a great many representations of Shakespeare, 
including the Chandos portrait, are widely circulated and discussed in 
spite of an absence of wholehearted and unreserved acceptance of their 
reliability. In my view the claims of the Cobbe portrait are at least as 
strong as those of the Chandos.

Stanley Wells

[3]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:       Hardy M. Cook
Date:       Monday, May 18, 2009
Subject: New Portrait of Shakespeare?
Comment:    SHK 20.0237 New Portrait of Shakespeare?

For the past twenty years, I have worked with only limited success in 
trying to carve out a scholarly space for academic discussion of things 
Shakespearean on the Internet. The Internet, however, with its 
democratic, sometime anarchic, spirit has (if I may use this 
personification) resisted strenuously these attempts. Along these lines 
and regarding SHAKSPER, I have come to the decision that if subjects 
cannot be discussed productively, then I will just not have them 
discussed at all. Discussions of the Cobbe portrait have been one of 
these topics that has been difficult to sustain productive exchanges.

In the past few week or so, I have posted a query soliciting the 
opinions of members: "Does anybody on the list believe the new portrait 
is Shakespeare -- wholeheartedly and without reservations?" On the 
surface this question would appear to be an innocent one, but now I am 
beginning to regret that I posted it. The question asks what members 
"believe" about the Cobbe portrait's authenticity.

The first definition in the OED for BELIEF is this:

1. The mental action, condition, or habit, of trusting to or confiding 
in a person or thing; trust, dependence, reliance, confidence, faith. 
Const. _in_ (_to_, _of_ obs.) a person.

(_Belief_ was the earlier word for what is now commonly called _faith_. 
The latter originally meant in Eng. (as in O French) 'loyalty to a 
person to whom one is bound by promise or duty, or to one's promise or 
duty itself,' as in 'to keep faith, to break faith,' and the derivatives 
_faithful_), _faithless_, in which there is no reference to 'belief'; 
i.e. 'faith' was = fidelity, fealty. But the word _faith_ being, through 
OF. _fei_, _feith_, the etymological representative of the L. _fides_, 
it began in the 14th c. to be used to translate the latter, and in 
course of time almost superseded 'belief,' esp. in theological language, 
leaving 'belief' in great measure to the merely intellectual process or 
state in sense 2. Thus 'belief in God' no longer means as much as 'faith 
in God' (cf. quot. 1814 in 2). See BELIEVE 1, and 1b.)

For BELIEVE:

1. To have confidence or faith _in_ (a person), and consequently to rely 
upon, trust to. Const. _in_, and (in theological language) _on_ (_an_ 
obs.); formerly with _into_, _unto_, _of_ (rare). _On hine elyfan_ to 
believe _in_ or _on_ him, was common in OE. No difference can be 
detected between the use of 'believe _in_' and 'believe _on_,' in the 
16th c. versions of the Scriptures, except that the latter was more 
frequent; it is now used chiefly (but not exclusively) of 'saving 
faith.'

a. To believe in _a person_ (also in Scripture in, or on, _his name_). 
[Cf. late L. _credere in aliquem_.]

b. To believe in _a thing_, e.g. the truth of a statement or doctrine; 
also in mod. usage, in the genuineness, virTuesday, or efficacy of a 
principle, institution, or practice.

Looking at these definitions, I have begun to wonder if I should have 
permitted a question of faith in the first place, but I did and will try 
to see if scholarly exchange is still possible.

In one of the reports about the Cobbe portrait I read during the past 
few months, Prof. Wells says, "The evidence that it represents 
Shakespeare and that it was done from life, though it is circumstantial, 
is in my view overwhelming, I feel in little doubt that this is a 
portrait of Shakespeare, done from life and commissioned by the Earl of 
Southampton and believe it could certainly be the basis for the 
engraving seen in the First Folio." In other places, Prof. Wells 
expresses 99% certainty or BELIEF that the Cobbe portrait is a genuine 
life portrait of Shakespeare.

Lyn Brenner, however, expresses disbelief in the Cobbe portrait's 
authenticity -- "Given the paucity of evidence, one must be an ardent 
wishful thinker to believe it 'wholeheartedly and without reservations'. 
(And as you can probably guess, my own view is Bah, humbug.)" Her belief 
is based on their being a "paucity of evidence"; she does not say, 
however, how she came to this determination.

Although I am not saying that Lyn Brenner came to her conclusions about 
the Cobbe portrait in the following manner, I can imagine that many have 
looked at the Cobbe portrait and because they cannot easily see the 
Droeshout image in it, they have concluded that the Cobbe portrait could 
not have possibly been a portrait of Shakespeare. (Wells reports, 
however, that the two are matches when a computer is used to superimpose 
the one upon the other.) Whether we like it or not, the Droeshout image 
is so prevalent that it has become de facto what most people think 
Shakespeare looked like.

In response to Lyn Brenner, Prof. Wells asserts that his claims for the 
Cobbe portrait are at least as strong as those for the Chandos, which 
has been "widely circulated and discussed in spite of an absence of 
wholehearted and unreserved acceptance of [its] reliability." He asks us 
to consider the evidence at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust (SBT) web 
site presentation of "Shakespeare Found" and the recently published 
_Shakespeare Found! A Life Portrait at Last, Portraits, Poet, Patron, 
Poems _.

I have ordered a copy of this book, but since it has not arrived yet, 
let me use the evidence presented on the SBT web site to try to tease 
out the basis for the claims made by Mark Broch, Paul Edmondson, and 
Stanley Wells regarding the authenticity of the Cobbe portrait.

After my copy of _Shakespeare Found_ arrives, I intend to present my 
reactions to it. I am also considering setting up a section on the 
SHAKSPER server dedicated to the Cobbe portrait and I have been 
gathering evidence from the web -- articles and letters, portraits 
(Cobbe, Janseen, Overbury, Ralegh, and others) -- in short whatever I 
can gather that might enable others to have as much evidence as possible 
so that they might be able to come to informed conclusions about the 
authenticity of the Cobbe portrait. In other words, I am going to try to 
use the Internet as a place for informed discussion and analysis rather 
than as an Internet extension of "talk" radio, where anyone can express 
a belief, and any belief is presented as if it were as legitimate as any 
other -- simply expressing a belief is all that matters. How one came to 
form that belief appears not to be important. Who SHOUTS the LOUDEST has 
replaced careful study and analysis. Evidence, facts, logic, all seem to 
be no longer necessary -- Ditto -- I believe, therefore, I am. I am a 
this or a that and so on and so on and so on.

I have been extremely irritated by those who have used the Internet in 
general and SHAKSPER in particular to attempt to legitimize their what I 
often consider outrageous beliefs regarding Shakespeare. Having an 
opinion, having a belief means nothing with regards to scholarly 
discourse if those beliefs have no basis other than the believer's 
faith. What is required is evidence, evidence that can pass the rigors 
of scholarly investigation.

Below I intend to present some of my ideas as if brainstorming and I 
invite anyone who wishes to address any of the points I mention.


The Evidence:

I. The original was almost certainly owned by Shakespeare's only known 
literary patron, Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton, to whom the 
Cobbe family is distantly related.

1. Southampton was only known literary patron of Shakespeare.

2. Southampton was distantly related to the Cobbe family.

[I would like to know more about family relationship  --  what does 
distantly related mean?]

Mark Broch, curator of the Cobbe Collection: The research conclusively 
demonstrates that the Cobbe picture is the prime version of the portrait 
and establishes beyond reasonable doubt its descent to the Cobbes 
through their cousin's marriage to the great granddaughter of 
Shakespeare's only literary patron, Henry Wriothesley, the 3rd Earl of 
Southampton.

3. The Cobbe family owns the portrait.

[Did Southampton own the house in Ireland where the painting hung?]


II. The sitter would appear to have been identified as a playwright in 
the 17th century.

1. The inscription is addressed to a playwright warning about dangers of 
trusting the powerful. The conclusion that the sitter is Shakespeare is 
strengthened by the fact that the original picture, the Cobbe portrait, 
was inscribed with a quotation from the Classical writer, Horace, taken 
from an ode addressed to a playwright.

2. Shakespeare's company was involved in political controversies of the 
day. [Essex uprising.]

3. Members of Shakespeare's company were servants of King James's 
household.

[So Shakespeare must have been connected with or closely aware of 
political intrigues of times. Plus, Shakespeare wrote plays that 
resemble political activities of the day.]

Some, however, have argued that the inscription is a later addition 
since the characters in it were not used at the time.

III. The Cobbe portrait seems to have been the model or source (through 
a copy) for Martin Droeshout's familiar engraving of Shakespeare for the 
First Folio of 1623.

1. One of copies is what was used as basis for Droeshout portrait.

2. Copy has changes that make it less like the original (if Cobbe is 
original of extant versions) and more like the Droeshout.

[I want to know more about these changes. I hope the book has pictures 
of it. I would also like to know more about the existence of copy not 
previous known.]

In addition to the Folger copy, several other early copies of the Cobbe 
portrait have been located and no less than three of them have 
independent traditions as portraits of Shakespeare. In two cases the 
traditions date back to within living memory of the poet -- providing 
compelling evidence that the identification of the sitter as Shakespeare 
was correct all along.

'Sweet master Shakespeare, I have his picture in my study at the court.'

* Isn't there also a reference in a Restoration play of having a 
portrait of Shakespeare.


Possible Objections:

Stratford Monument

Both Droeshout engraving and Stratford Monument portray a man with 
considerably less hair than man in Cobbe. Can this be attributed to 
idealization in the Cobbe or Shakespeare's having a venereal disease 
that would cause hair loss?

* If both Cobbe and Monument are authentic then Shakespeare must have 
gained significant weight between 1610 and 1616.
* Is this explained by idealization in Cobbe?
* Why would Cobbe be idealized and monument not?

Jackson's case for Overbury 
<http://www.shaksper.net/archives/2009/0120.html>

1. The man in the Cobbe portrait looks about 30, and Overbury was born 
in 1581. So if the dating of the portrait by the technical analysts as 
'about 1610' is right, the apparent age of the sitter fits Overbury. In 
1610 Shakespeare, born 1564, can hardly have looked so young.

2. When you start looking for resemblances among early modern portraits, 
before long almost anybody can begin to look a bit like almost anybody 
else. When I first saw a reproduction of the Cobbe portrait, I was 
immediately reminded of the portrait of Sir Walter Ralegh . . . the 
Cobbe family had previously thought their portrait was of Ralegh and 
that his name is inscribed in ink on the back of it. But in 1610, 
Ralegh, born 1554, was ten years older even than Shakespeare.

When I look at portraits of Overbury at National Gallery web site, I do 
not readily conclude that the two are of the same person.

These thoughts are random and a bit all over the place, but I felt that 
it was more important to share thought at this point that to present a 
fully developed essay.

I invite responses to these ramblings.

Hardy

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