I’ve been mesmerized since I first saw this portrait on Monday.
The leading Shakespeare expert in the world (though how you get that title, I don’t know) thinks this portrait might be the real deal. He believes it was painted from life when Shakespeare was 46, just six years before his death.
Time has the story but I’ll summarize the pertinent details here. The portrait was first reported to have been owned by the third Earl of Southampton. In the early 18th century, a member of the Cobbe family—the family that’s owned the portrait for approximately 300 years—married into the Earl’s family and thus took possession of the portrait.
In 2006, Alec Cobbe, current owner and an art restorer, noticed a resemblance between the portrait held by his family and paintings he saw in an exhibition in London of likely images of the Great One. As a result of scientific testing conducted on the portrait, we know that it hasn’t been altered since it was first painted in the 1610. But does it show the face of Shakespeare?
I certainly hope so.
Since high school, I have been astounded by the gifts of Shakespeare. No other writer in the history of the world combines his phenomenal wit, his comprehensive understanding of human nature, and his awe-inspiring gift of making the English language sound like the most incredible music. A pilgrimage to his crypt in Stratford was just that to me: A pilgrimage.
Though it’s undeniably bleak, no play or novel reveals to me more of the essential truths of the human condition than Macbeth. I was stunned when I first “got it” in high school (thanks, Mrs. Gordon!) and am still just as stunned today. And for anyone who thinks Shakespeare is dull and scholarly, I submit A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
I am enthralled by the mysteries of his life, including the biggest question of all: How did a man from the provinces – well, but not spectacularly educated – do it? But, then again, how could anyone do it?
There is no answer. Just gratitude that somehow, someway he did it. And Planet Earth will always be the richer for it.