See Shakespeare's portrait at Hatchlands Park

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This painting of Shakespeare and the portrait of Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton became well known when they were unveiled at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust in Stratford-upon-Avon. Both paintings now hang in pride of place in our library.

The portrait of William Shakespeare was unveiled in March 2009 at the exhibition Shakespeare Found: A Life Portrait. The exhibition revealed that after it was painted in about 1610 it seems to have been repeatedly copied. These copies were then claimed to be original representations of Shakespeare.

The portrait’s status as the original of these copies has only recently been established by x-ray, infrared examination and tree-ring dating. Perhaps most excitingly, this portrait appears to have been taken from life.

The portrait of the Earl of Southampton was painted some time between 1590 - 1593 and was mistakenly identified as the portrait of a woman. It was not correctly identified until 2002 when it was realised that the clothing was typically male.

The Earl of Southampton is the only known literary patron of Shakespeare and is believed by many scholars to be the 'fair youth' of the Sonnets. Southampton was famously proud of his looks and his androgynous appearance in this painting lends support to the theory that the relationship between the two men may have been closer than previously thought.

These portraits are part of the Cobbe family collection and were owned by Archbishop Charles Cobbe (1686 – 1765). It is likely he inherited them from his cousin Richard Norton, whose wife, Lady Elizabeth Norton, was a great grand-daughter of the 3rd Earl of Southampton.

An excellent book on this subject entitled Shakespeare Found is available from the gift shop here at Hatchlands Park.