Nearly 400 years after his death,William Shakespeare appeared in a new and more handsome guise on Monday,thanks to a recently discovered portrait that a group of Shakespeare scholars and art historians said was the only known likeness to have been painted in his lifetime.
Stanley Wells,the chairman of the Shakespeare Birthday Trust,based in Shakespeares birthplace of Stratford-upon-Avon,described the portrait at a news conference as a pinup. It shows the Bard as a far more alluring figure than the solemn-faced,balding image that has been conveyed by engravings,busts and portraits that have been accepted by scholars as the best available likeness of English literatures most famous figure.
Until now,scholars have deemed the most authentic representations of Shakespeare to be a black-and-white woodcut engraving by Flemish artist Martin Droeshout that appeared in the first folio edition of Shakespeares works in 1623,and a marble bust displayed since the 1620s in a Stratford church.
In their place,the scholars in London showed reporters a portrait taken from the private collection of an aristocratic Anglo-Irish family,the Cobbes,who have owned it for nearly 300 years,since inheriting it through a family relationship with Shakespeares only known literary patron,Henry Wriothesley,the 3rd Earl of Southampton.
In middle age,this Shakespeare has a fresh-faced complexion,a trimmed auburn beard,a straight nose and a full,almost bouffant hairstyle. Experts said their studies showed it probably was painted in 1610,when Shakespeare was 46.