The many faces of Shakespeare

Shakespeare's First Folio

Shakespeare’s First Folio, published 1623.

The First Folio was published  in 1623, featuring the first picture in print of Shakespeare. Taken from a copper engraving by Flemish engraver Martin Droeshout, it is believed to be an accurate depiction of Shakespeare. Both editors of the First Folio, John Heminges and Henry Condell, were colleagues of Shakespeare and knew him personally. This makes the likeness even more probable.

Grafton Portrait 1588

Grafton Portrait 1588

The Grafton Portrait is inscribed with the date 1588, which would make Shakespeare a 24-year-old man. It is said by experts to depict Shakespeare accurately in his younger years.

The portrait was named in the early 20th century, from being bequeathed to the owner’s ancestor by one of the Dukes of Grafton. The artist is not known.

Sanders Portrait 1603

Sanders Portrait 1603

The Sanders Portrait, said to be the work of the little-known artist John Sanders in 1603, is one of the most disputed portraits of Shakespeare. There is only circumstantial evidence that ties the portrait to Shakespeare, and a large section where the sitter’s right shoulder should’ve been is missing.

Chandos Portrait 1610

Chandos Portrait 1610

The Chandos Portrait, possibly by Richard Burbage or John Taylor, dates back to 1610 and is believed to be an accurate rendition of Shakespeare at an age of 46.

Janssen Portrait 1610

Janssen Portrait 1610

The Janssen Portrait, believed to be from 1610 by artist Cornelis Janssen (1581-1613), was originally believed to be an accurate rendition of Shakespeare at the time. A more recent investigation found the portrait to have been altered to make the subject look balder. These alterations were professionally removed in 1988.

The work is now believed to be of the Jacobean courtier Thomas Overbury, and it is now debated whether Cornelis Janssen was the true artist.

Flower Portrait 1623

Flower Portrait 1623

The Flower Portrait is one of the most widely recognised paintings of Shakespeare, originally believed to date c1820 to 1840. It is a rendition of the famous engraving which appeared in the first printed edition of Shakespeare’s plays, published in 1623. The portrait was bought by Edgar Flower in 1892 and donated to the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1895.

The portrait was later determined to be a fake based on chrome yellow pigment which was not available during the period it was believed to be painted. This evidence dates the portrait to be late 19th century.

Soest Portrait 1660s

Soest Portrait 1660s

The Soest Portrait, by Dutch-born artist Gerard (Gilbert) Soest, is believed to be one of the earliest examples of a memorial portrait and was likely produced in the late 1660s.

There are likenesses in the features to the Chandos Portrait, although given the date it is apparent Shakespeare is depicted as a younger man. In later years Shakespeare is said to wear a bohemian earring, but there is no reliable evidence of this.

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