THE PICTURES OF WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE - WHAT DID HE REALLY LOOK LIKE? As William Shakespeare did not come from a noble background no portraits or pictures of the Bard, or any members of his family, were commissioned. Neither is there any evidence that Shakespear commissioned his own portrait or pictures in his later, prosperous years. There is no evidence that a portrait or pictures were ever painted of the Bard whilst he was still alive, nor is there any written description of his physical appearance. The following images or pictures of William Shakespeare were all apparently crafted after his death. The pictures portrayed of William Shakespeare differ dramatically. Additional information regarding pictures of William Shakespeare can be found on the section regarding the First Folio
THE DROESHOUT ENGRAVING - PICTURE OF WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE The copper engraving picture of William Shakespeare by Martin Droeshout was published on the title page of the First Folio in 1623. The First Folio was produced by Hemminge and Condell, fellow actors of the Bard, as a dedication to the plays of William Shakespeare. Droeshout was only 15 when William Shakespeare died and it is doubtful whether he ever met the Bard. It has been assumed that descriptions of William Shakespeare were provided by his fellow actors including Hemminge and Condell, who were beneficiaries in William Shakespeare's will. Since the discovery of the Sanders Portrait it would seem possible that due to the similarity of the collars and some features in the picture that Droeshout could have used this as a basis for the engraving, applying artistic licence and contemporary descriptions to both age William Shakespeare and show him in appropriate clothing. The Publishers of the First Folio altered it twice while it went through press. The engraving of William Shakespeare's picture was darkened and a shadow was also added. Click Droeshout Engraving for more information about engraved pictures.
WILLIAM MARSHALL ENGRAVING PICTURE OF SHAKESPEARE In 1640 an authorised edition of William Shakespeare's poems included an engraved picture of William Shakespeare by William Marshall. This image was similar to the Droeshout copper engraving but was reversed and the features altered. The verses by Ben Jonson, in the First Folio, apparently identify the portrait as Shakespeare but when the words were re-used in the 1640 second edition of Shakespeare's Sonnets they cast some doubt on the authenticity of the likeness by the addition of several question marks. Click Marshall Engraving for more information on the engraved pictures of William Shakespeare. "This Shadowe is renowned Shakespear's? Soule of th'age? The applause? delight? the wonder of the Stage?"
THE STRATFORD PORTRAIT - PICTURE OF WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE This picture is known as the Stratford portrait. The picture is so called as it is housed at Stratford. This William Shakespeare picture was owned by a Mr Hunt who was a town-clerk of Stratford. In 1861 a picture restorer called Mr Collins, who was employed in Stratford to clean and restore the effigies in the Holy Trinity Church noticed the portrait hanging in Mr. Hall's lobby. He offered to clean the painting and during its restoration he removed a full beard and moustache, which had been added to the original picture. The portrait showed a strong resemblance to the memorial bust of William Shakespeare with the same style of dress and the curls in the hair. This is one of the best known pictures of the Bard, the most famous picture being the Chandos portrait.
THE CHANDOS PORTRAIT - PICTURE OF WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE This portrait has been attributed to Joseph Taylor but the exact date of the painting is unknown. The full beard and moustache was favoured in pictures by Rubens after his arrival in England in 1630. It is believed to have been commissioned by the playwright and theatre manager William Davenant (1606–1668). The portrait receives its name as it was once in the possession of the Duke of Chandos. The Chandos picture is by far the most attractive of the pictures of William Shakespeare and is typical of English paintings, portraits and costumes of the period. The Chandos portrait has, however, been altered by Ozias Humphrey and Sir Joshua Reynolds. In 1856 it became the property of Britain's National Portrait Gallery and has the distinction of being the first picture bought by the gallery.
THE SANDERS PORTRAIT - PICTURE OF WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE The painting on the right is referred to as the Sanders Portrait and was discovered in Eastern Canada in the Spring of 2001. John Sanders is believed to have been a scene painter in William Shakespeare's Theatre Company. The picture is oil on wood and the label on the back of the portrait claims that the picture is "Shakspere, born April 23rd 1564, died April 23rd 1616, aged 52, this likeness taken 1603, age at that time 39 years." Initial scientific tests indicate that the frame, paint and style is consistent with 17th Century painting. There has been no re-touching and has not been painted on top of an older picture. Although the scientific results prove that the portrait is genuine, it cannot prove that the image is in fact that of William Shakespeare as even if the label is also genuine it could only have been written sometime after his death.
Further likenesses and pictures of William Shakespeare may be obtained by clicking on: