Open main menu
This page needs to be proofread.
789
SHAKESPEARE


R.B. is correct, it is contended the initials indicate Richard Burbage, Shakespeare's fellow-actor. Traces of the writing may still be detected. Boaden's copy, made in 1792, repeating the inscription on the back, has “ Guil. Shakspeare 1587 R.N.” The spelling of Shakespeare's name-which in succeeding ages has been governed by contemporary fashion-has a distinct bearing on the authenticity of the panel. At the first appearance of the “ Felton portrait ” in a London sale-room it was bought by Samuel Felton of Drayton, Shropshire, for five pounds, along with a pedigree which carried its refutation along with it. Nevertheless, it bears evidence of being an honest painting done from life, and is probably not a make-up in the sense that most of the others are. It fell into the hands of Richardson the print seller, who issued fraudulent engravings of it by Trotter and others (by which it is best known), causing the characteristic lines of the shoulders to be altered, so that it is set upon a body attired in the Droeshout costume, which does not appear in the picture; and then, arguing from this falsely-introduced costume, the publisher maintained that the work was the original of the Droeshout print and therefore a life-portrait of Shakespeare. Thus foisted on the public it enjoyed for years a great reputation, and no one seems to have recognized that with its down-turned moustache it agrees with the inaccurate print after the Droeshout engraving which was published as frontispiece to Ayscougl1's edition of Shakespeare in 1790, Le. two years before the discovery of the Felton portrait! The “ Napier portrait, ” as the excellent copy by John Boaden is known, has recently been presented to the Shakespeare Memorial. Iosiah Boydell also made a copy of the picture for George Steevens in 1797. Quite a number of capital miniatures from it are in existence. With these should be mentioned a picture of a similar type discovered by Mr M. H. Spielmann in 1905. Finding a wretched copy of the Chandos portrait executed on a panel about three hundred years old, he had the century-old paint cleaned off in order to ascertain the method of the forger. On the disappearance of the Chandos likeness under the action of the spirit another portrait of Shakespeare was found beneath, irretrievably damaged but obviously painted in the I7th century. At the time of the “ fake ” only portraits of the Chandos type were saleable, and this would account for the wanton destruction of an interesting work which was probably executed for a publisher-likely enough for Jacob Tonson-but not used. Early as it is in date it can make no claim to be a life-portrait.

The “ Ianssen ” or “ Somerset portrait” is in many respects the most interesting painted likeness of Shakespeare, and undoubtedly the finest of all the paintings in the series. It is certainly a genuine as well as a very beautiful picture of the period, and bears the inscription-'Zg'gI';*)6-but doubt has been expressed whether the 6 of 46 has not been tampered with, and whether it was not originally an o and altered to fit Shakespeare's age. It was made known through, Earlom's rare mezzo tint of it, but the public knowledge of it has been mainly founded on Cooper's and Turner's beautiful but misleading mezzo tint plates until a photograph of the original was published for the first time in 1909 (in The Connoisseur) by permission of the owner, the Lady Guendolen Ramsden, daughter of the duke of Somerset, the former owner of the picture. The resemblance to the main forms of the death-mask is undoubted; but that is of little consequence as confirmation unless the mask itself is supported by something beyond vague conjectures. Charles jennens, the wealthy and eccentric amateur editor of the poor edition of King Lear issued in 1770, was the first known owner, but vouchsafed no information of its source and shrank from the challenge to produce the picture. Of the beauty, excellence, and originality of this portrait there is no question; it is more than likely that Janssen was the author of it; but that it was intended to represent Shakespeare is still to be proved. A number of good copies of it exist, all but one (which enjoys a longer pedigree) made in the 18th century: the “ Croker janssen” now lost, unless it be that of Lord Darnley's; the “ Staunton Ianssen, " the “ Buckston Janssen, ” the “ Marsden 7 8 9

Janssen, ” and the copy in the possession of the duke of Anhalt. These are all above the average merit of such work. The portrait which has made the most popular appeal is that called the “ Chandos, ” formerly known as the “ d'Avenant, ” the “ Stowe, ” and the “ Ellesmere, ” according as it passed from hand to hand; it is now in the National Portrait Gallery. Tradition, tainted at the'outset, attributes the authorship of it to Richard Burbage, although it is impossible that the painter of the head in the Dulwich Gallery could have produced a work so good in technique; and Burbage is alleged to have given it to his fellow-actor Toseph Taylor, who bequeathed it to Sir William d'Aver1ant, Shakespeare's godson. As a matter of fact, Taylor died intestate. Thenceforward, whether or not it belonged to d'Avenant, its history is clear. At the great Stowe sale of the effects of the duke of Buckingham and Chandos (who had inherited it) the earl of Ellesmere bought it and then presented it to the nation. Many serious inquirers have refused to accept this romantic, swarthy, Italian-looking head here depicted as a likeness of Shakespeare of the Midlands, if only because in every important physiognomical particular, and in face-measurement, it is contradicted by the Stratford bust and the Droeshout print. It is to be noted, however, that judged by the earlier copies of it-which agree in the main points some of the swarthiness complained of may be due to the restorer. Oldys, indifferent to tradition, attributed it to Janssen, an unallowable ascription. This, except the “ Lumley portrait/ the “ Burdett Coutts portrait, ” and the admitted fraud, the “ Dunford portrait, ” is the only picture of Shakespeare executed before the end of the 18th century which represents the poet with earrings-the wearing of which, it should be noted, either simple gold circles or decorated with jewel-drops, was a fashion that extended over two centuries, in England mainly, if not entirely, affected by nobles and exquisite. Contrary to the general belief, the picture has not been subjected to very extensive repair. That it was not radically altered by the restorer is proved by the fine copy painted by Sir Godfrey Kneller, and by him presented to John Dryden. The poet acknowledged the gift in his celebrated Fourteenth Epistle, written after 1691 and published in 1694, and containing the passage beginning, “ Shakespeare, thy gift, I place beforemy sight; With awe I ask his blessing ere I write.” D'Avenant had died in 1668, and so could not, as tradition contends was the case, have been the donor. In Malone's time the picture was already in the possession of the earl Fitzwilliam. This at least proves the esteem in which the Chandos portrait was held so far back as the end of the 17th century, only three-quarters of a century after Shakespeare's death.

From among the innumerable copies and adaptations of the Chandos portrait a few emerge as having a certain importance of their own. That which Sir Joshua Reynolds is traditionally said to have made for the use of Roubiliac, then engaged in his statue of Shakespeare for David Garrick (now in the British Museum), and another alleged to have been done for Bishop Newton, are now lost. That by Ranelagh Barret was presented in 1779 to Trinity College Library, Cambridge, by the Shakespearian commentator Edward Capell. Dr Matthew Maty,

principal librarian of the British Museum, presented his copy to the museum in 1760. There are also the smooth but rather original copy (with drapery added) belonging to the earl of Bath at Longleat; the Warwick Castle copy; the fair copy known as the Lord St Leonards portrait; the large copy in coloured crayons, formerly in the Iennens collection and now belonging to Lord Howe, by van der Gucht, which seems to be by the same hand as that which executed the pastel portrait of Chaucer in the Bodleian Library; the “ Clopton miniature ” attributed to John Michael Wright, which formed the basis of the drawing by Arlaud, by whose name the engravings of this modified type are usually known; the Shakespeare Hirst picture, based on Houbraken's engraving; the full-size chalk drawing by Ozias Humphry, R.A., at the Birthplace, which Malone guaranteed to be a perfect transcript, but which more resembles

the late W. P. Frith, R.A., than Shakespeare. Humphry also,