A William Shakespeare scholar on Monday unveiled in London a painted portrait of the most famous English poet and playwright done in 1610 when he was 46 years old.
Believed to be the only one of its kind, the portrait shows a more handsome, more fashionable and more wealthy Shakespeare. The man in the painting has a fresh face complexion, a trimmed auburn beard, long straight nose and an almost bouffant hairstyle. He wears a white lace ruff and a gold-trimmed blue tunic, which are worn by the wealthy during his time.
Before the discovery of the portrait by art restorer Alec Cobbe, the most known image of Shakespeare is a black-and-white engraving of a balding man appearing in the first folio edition of his works in 1623.
There are also at least three other Shakespeare portraits, including the one displayed in the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington. But experts regard them as copies of the painted portrait of Cobbe.
Those who have seen the four portraits believe the painted one from Cobbe is the original, said Stanley Wells, chairman of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust and one of the scholars who studied the new portrait, according to the IHT.com.
The new Shakespeare portrait is part of the Cobbe family's collection inherited from the third Earl of Southampton and Shakespeare's only aristocratic sponsor, Henry Wriothesley. Cobbe inherited the portrait of the unidentified man that hung for more than 250 years in his family's home in Ireland.
When Cobbe visited the National Portrait Gallery in London in 2006 to see the "Searching for Shakespeare" exhibition, he was convinced the Folger portrait displayed there was a copy of the portrait in their home. The ensuing scientific tests and studies of the Cobbe portrait confirmed that it is the original image of Shakespeare.