Thursday, April 02, 2009

What Did Shakespeare Look Like?

Copies of the painting we now refer to as the Cobbe portrait were identified as Shakespeare within living memory of the poet. The original was almost certainly owned by Shakespeare's only known literary patron, Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton, to whom the Cobbe family is distantly related. The sitter would appear to have been identified as a playwright in the 17th century. The Latin inscription along its top edge, 'Principum Amicitias!', is a quotation from an ode by the classical writer Horace (Book II, Ode I). In Horace's poem, the words--which can be translated as 'the alliances of princes!'-- were addressed to the tragic playwright Pollio. Horace's words warned Pollio of the dangers of writing vividly about recent major historical events (dangers of which Shakespeare was all too well aware) and contrasted the playwright's historical and tragic writings. But even more importantly, the Cobbe portrait seems to have been the model or source (through a copy) for Martin Droeshout's familiar engraving of Shakespeare for the First Folio of 1623.


ShakSan said...

I am afraid that you are getting sucked in by the nonsensical rants of Mr Wells. The painting is of Sir Thomas Overbury. When Sir Thomas was poisoned, it was a major topic of discussion at the time. Paintings of Sir Thomas would have been in demand thus the several copies would have been made. The quotation is appropriate since Sir Thomas was indeed close to King James and was out of favour with him, thus the warning. (It has been suggested that the King could have been aware or involved in the murder.

((((((((ö)))))))) said...

I don't think I am being 'sucked in' by anyone. I posted this because I thought it was interesting. I really don't have a strong opinion on what Shakespeare may have looked like.