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VocalEyes - New Place

The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust Portrait, 1610-1615.



This portrait, thought to be of William Shakespeare, is by an unknown artist. It was formerly known as The Ellenborough Portrait, after the Earl of Ellenborough who owned it. It's painted with oils on a wooden panel, and dates from around 1610-1615. It measures 76 centimetres high and 60 centimetres wide. Its dark wood frame is decorated with delicately painted white flowers and green foliage.

It is a head and shoulders portrait of a young man, set against a dark background. His eyebrows arch gently over intense dark grey eyes, which look directly at us. He has a long, straight nose and rosy cheeks. His dark hair is brushed up and back from his forehead, the top quite spiky and so dark that it disappears into the background. At the sides, the hair covers his ears - from which a neatly trimmed red-brown beard traces the outline of his jaw, ending in a soft point at his chin. His coral pink lips are held closed, with a neat moustache above.

His clothes are expensive. A stiff white collar with an intricate lace edge, extends to his shoulders. The chest of his black doublet has horizontal stripes of silver. Gold decorative stems ripple through the black fabric before sprouting into golden bell-shaped flowers over the silver stripes. Down the centre, a vertical line of tiny gold buttons - 15 of them between neck and the bottom of his chest, where the picture ends. Gold braid runs down either side of the buttons.

This is a contemporary copy of another Jacobean panel portrait known as the Cobbe Portrait of Shakespeare.  It was listed in a 1926 inventory of the home of the Earl of Ellenborough as:
‘School of Hilliard. Portrait of a Gentleman (said to be Shakespeare), half length, in richly embroidered dress and lace collar. 21 and a half inches by 16 and half inches, panel'.

It was sold at Sotheby’s in 1947 for £20 to R. Ward. It was sold again in 1955 at Christie's for nine pounds and nine shillings, to someone named Dent. After 1955, it was only known by black and white photographs until it reappeared in 2009 in Madrid. There are two other contemporary copies of the Cobbe portrait in existence, traditionally known as the Fitzgerald portrait and the Janssen portrait.