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Cute, but he's not the Bard

October 29, 2005|From Associated Press

LONDON — An Elizabethan portrait thought by many to depict the young William Shakespeare is not the Bard, experts at the National Portrait Gallery have concluded.

The "Grafton Portrait," which shows a dark-haired, highbrowed young man in a rich scarlet jacket, has appeared on the cover of books about the writer. Gallery experts dated the painting to 1588, when Shakespeare was 24 -- the age given by an inscription on the picture.

But they said Friday that there was no other evidence to suggest the portrait, owned by the University of Manchester, was of the playwright. Curator Tarnya Cooper said it was unlikely that Shakespeare, then a young actor and writer, would have been able to afford a garment as expensive as the one in the painting.

"We believe that Shakespeare left Stratford-upon-Avon following the birth of twins in 1585," Cooper said. "One possibility is that he joined a traveling theater troupe, and it is very unlikely that in 1588 Shakespeare would have been able to afford a costume of this type."

The gallery is restoring and authenticating three portraits purportedly of Shakespeare for its "Searching for Shakespeare" exhibition next year.

Using X-rays, ultraviolet light, microphotography and paint sampling tests, scholars at the gallery concluded in April that one of the best-known Shakespeare portraits -- the so-called Flower portrait owned by the Royal Shakespeare Company -- was also a fake. Scientific analysis revealed the painting dated from the 19th century.

Next, experts will examine the Chandos portrait, which is in the gallery's own collection.

Only two likenesses of Shakespeare are widely accepted as authentic: a bust on his tomb in Stratford's Holy Trinity Church and an engraving used as a frontispiece to the Folio edition of his plays in 1623.

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