The Portraits of Shakespeare

The Grafton Portrait

Every few years a ‘new’ portrait of Shakespeare is discovered.  Sometimes they are even discovered just in time for a major movie, where the drama and romance can be channeled towards an anticipated event, such as with the Grafton Portrait, where “The painting was previously believed to have shown the Bard at the age of 24, and its beauty, sensitivity and passion helped to inspire the image of him portrayed in the film Shakespeare in Love.”

The Marlovian Scholar, Isabel Gortazar, believes that the Grafton Portrait may well be Christopher Marlowe.

The Chandos Portrait is probably one of the most famous, most recognized, and most used portraits of Shakespeare. This portrait portrays someone who is studied and intelligent. Perhaps even a bit sarcastic.

Per usual, the authenticity of the portraits are questioned and investigated. Dr. Tarnya Cooper, art historian and the 16th century curator of the National Portrait Gallery, London, gave her tacit approval of this portrait: “…it’s not absolutely watertight. We may never find the clincher piece of evidence – though it may yet turn up.”

The Chandos Portrait

Some believe that the Droeshout engraving was based on the Chandos portrait.  Certainly the Droeshout engraving gives Shakespeare more of an English provenance, a factor which bothered some about the Chandos portrait. George Stevens complained that the man in the portrait had “the complexion of a Jew, or rather that of a chimney sweeper in the jaundice.” J. Hain Friswell agreed, stating that “one cannot readily imagine our essentially English Shakespeare to have been a dark, heavy man, with a foreign expression’.”

The Droeshout Engraving

Sigmund Freud, father of modern psychoanalysis, disagreed with the Jewish diagnosis. He felt that Shakespeare was French. “He insisted that his countenance could not be that of an Anglo-Saxon but must be French, and he suggested that the name was a corruption of Jacques Pierre.”  The Iraqi writer, Safa Khulusi, said that the man in the Chandos portrait was definitely an Arab because of his Islamic beard and un-English look.

“I turned him into flesh and blood,” he said. “Like a chap you might see down the pub.”

Yes, perhaps this sums it up. What everyone is looking for in Shakespeare.  “Geoffrey Tristram, an artist from Stourbridge, in the West Midlands, is convinced he has produced the most authentic likeness of the man to date.”  An everyman’s Shakespeare. “Mr Tristram is confident his portrait has done what so many others failed to do – make him real.”

Shakespeare artist Geoffrey Tristram


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