The Face of Shakespeare?

March 11, 2009 at 1:47 am (Anglophilia, Art, Shakespeare)

A painting in the collection at Hatchlands, a stately home in Surrey, has just been identified as a portrait of William Shakespeare.

Until now, there have been two likenesses thought to portray the Bard. The first is the frontispiece in the First Folio, the collection of his plays published seven years after his death in 1616. It’s a copper engraving by an artist of Flemish descent, Martin Droeshout.


The second is the so-called Chandos Portrait, which currently hangs in the National Portrait Gallery in London:


The artist may have been one John Taylor; the subject may have been William Shakespeare. There is no absolute certainty on either point.

And now, this:


The work dates from 1610, which means it was executed during the playwright’s lifetime. Stanley Wells, emeritus professor of Shakespeare studies at Birmingham University and chairman of the Shakespeare Birthday Trust, believes that this is in fact the face of Shakespeare.  Others, such as Andrew Dickson of The Guardian, have reservations.

I’ve always had a fondness for the Chandos portrait. The hint of a smile, the somewhat indirect gaze – behold, they show us a mystery…

This article in the Telegraph features a video on the subject of this recent, rather significant find.  (Stanley Wells is married to Susan Hill, a writer I esteem highly. I love this small world quality of British intellectual life!)


  1. William Shakespeare said,

    The top two portraits are probably of the same person and they both have Jewish features.
    The bottom portrait looks nothing like either.
    Probably everyone walking around in those days looked like Shakespeare.
    Not only can’t the British believe their greatest dramatist was a country boy, seems like they desparately want a likeness of him that looks more like a prince than a rabbi.

    • Jack said,

      wouldn’t you know since you claim to be William Shakespeare?

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