Sunday, April 12, 2009

Shakespeare's Face - Book Review

Shakespeare's Face
By Stephanie Nolen
Alfred Knopf Canada
Stephanie's website
LARGE Sanders Portrait on the right

I thought it timely to read this book after the most recent portrait was discovered. (see the large Sanders Portrait link above. The Cobbes portrait is on the left).

But since the Cobbes Portrait has now been identified as actually being Sir Thomas Overbury, then the Sanders Portrait may still be in the running.

This was an excellent book to read. There are some chapters written by Stephanie Nolen and others by other experts who have written about this portrait and why it may or may not be Shakespeare. Stephanie writes about how she discovered the portrait, and she tells the story of the Sanders family who owned the portrait and how it came to be in Canada. Stephanie describes all the testing that was done. Most of it was done by the Canadian Conservation Institute in Ottawa.

The Sanders portrait was painted in 1603 - the year 1603 is painted at the top right hand corner. The wood, and the paint are all dated to the Elizbethan era or before so it is from the right time. The label on the back is the big questions. Since the painting was done in 1603 (Shakespeare would have been 39 that year) there is alabel affixed to the back that states year of birth and year of death, so the label at least was not attached at the time the painting was done. It was attached sometime after Shakespeare died in 1616. This alone is suspicous and may mean that the painting was NOT painted in 1603.

Some of the chapters in this book are written by the experts. Some of them are a little dry, as only experts can be. Other experts chapters are interesting.

The last chapter has summaries by the experts on who they think the portrait may be of. All of them say that this is NOT a portrait of William Shakepeare, because it is so different from the Droeshout print from the first Folio. Only one expert offers a plausible guess as to who the man in the portrait may be.

In 1603, William Shakespeare was aged 39. In that same year, his future writing partner John Fletcher, was just 24. He does have light coloured hair and a receding hairline. This portrait does look more like a young man of 24, and not so much of a man about to turn 40.

Here is another recent review of this same book.

So do YOU think this portrait is of a 39 year old or a 24 years old??


ShakSan said...

Much has been discovered since Ms. Nolen's book was published.

Please visit the below links.

There will be a Globe and Mail follow up on Monday, April 13.

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