Peter Gill, playwright and theatre director
Shakespeare portraits
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Portraits of William Shakespeare

The 'Flower' portrait of Shakespeare
The 'Flower' portrait of Shakespeare executed on an elm panel is the earliest painting known definitely to be of Shakespeare. By an unknown artist, it was probably taken not from life but from the Droeshout engraving.
Martin Droeshout portrait of William Shakespeare Geerart Janssen portrait of William Shakespeare
Commended for its likeness but not for its artistry, the engraving on the title page of the first folio (1623) is by Martin Droeshout, an engraver who, only 22 years old when the folio appeared, is unlikely to have sketched Shakespeare from life. A monument to Shakespeare was erected not long after his death in Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon, near his burial place. Probably commissioned by his family, it was executed by Gheerart Janssen.
Chandos Head portrait of William Shakespeare Zucchero portrait of William Shakespeare
The painter of the Chandos Head, now in the National Portrait Gallery, is not known. Likely to have been painted some years after his death, it is the most romantic of the near contemporary portraits. Attributed to the Italian painter Zucchero who died in the same year as Shakespeare, this life-size oval portrait was painted on a wooden panel. Proof that the subject is Shakespeare himself is not absolute. The engraving shown here is a 19th century copy.
Corenelius Jansen portrait of William Shakespeare W Marshall portrait of William Shakespeare
The Cornelius Jansen is possibly an early copy of the Chandos portrait, although a much more attractive theory is that the artist was in London by 1610 when he was commissioned by the Earl of Southampton to paint Shakespeare. Engraved by W Marshall for the frontispiece of the 1640 edition of Shakespeare’s poems, this is a stylised copy — reversed — of the Droeshout.


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Last modified: 2012-03-15