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Shakespeare Connected - Shakespeare Among Readers

1. The Chesterfield Portrait - English School - 1664-1679

Shakespeare is presented as a reader. He rests his right hand over a much worn-out open book. The dog-eared pages suggest continuous and regular reading. The hand covering both pages suggests possession and mastery over the knowledge the book contains. The book is a large volume, possibly a folio, which means that this is a valuable and expensive object which has, nevertheless, been in constant use by its owner. The presence of the book along with the rich fabrics of the robe and in the background gives Shakespeare an air of learning, distinction, and solemnity. This is the first portrait to depict Shakespeare with a book and was painted at least forty-eight years after his death.


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