This gorgeously lush painting of an Elizabethan gentleman is believed by many to be the only authentic painting of William Shakespeare. As with most historical detritus concerning The Bard, it’s subject to controversy, and isn’t 100% authenticated. But there’s plenty of circumstantial evidence to suggest that this is a painting of a sitting William Shakespeare as he looked later in life, after having achieved his fame as a playwright and successful business owner.
A few facts and suppositions:
- Called ‘The Cobbe Portrait’ because the original (newly rediscovered in 2006) was confirmed by the Cobbe family as being owned by their ancestor, Charles Cobbe, Church of Ireland, Archbishop of Dublin, 1686 to 1765.
- The portrait descended through the family along with a painting of Shakespeare’s patron, Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southamption (and possibly the ‘Young Man’ of the Sonnets).
- The Latin inscription ‘Principum Amicitias!’ means ‘Alliances of Princes”, which could certainly describe Shakespeare, whose Lord Chamberlain’s Men (later, the King’s Men) played for both Queen Elizabeth and King James.
- Scientific testing places the portrait’s creation sometime after 1595, and the collar on the gentleman is the style of the early 1600’s.