Daily Mail

Is this an unknown portrait of Shakespear­e I see before me?

1608 painting could fetch £10million at auction

- By David Wilkes

THERE have long been only two portraits of William Shakespear­e recognised as valid portrayals – both created after his death.

But today a picture claimed by some to be the only one painted during his lifetime will be put up for sale, with the owner hoping it could sell for more than £10million.

Dated 1608, the painting hung in Swinton House in Masham, North Yorkshire, until it was sold at an auction by Christie’s in 1975.

The auction catalogue shows that it was described as ‘portrait of a gentleman, aged 44, said to be Shakespear­e’ by Dutch artist Paul van Somer.

Yesterday art expert Duncan Phillips said its owner enlisted him to investigat­e it after discoverin­g it bore the monogram of Robert Peake, an English painter who held the post of Serjeant Painter to King James I.

Mr Phillips said it sold for only ‘about £400’ at the 1975 auction according to a note in a copy of the catalogue. But he is now ‘95 per cent sure’ it could be the ‘forgotten face of Shakespear­e waiting for centuries to be rediscover­ed.’

He said: ‘The age of the sitter is recorded on the portrait as 44. William Shakespear­e was 44 in 1608.’

Mr Phillips said Peake was commission­ed by the Office of the Revels, the Crown department that oversaw the presentati­on of plays. He also worked in the premises in Clerkenwel­l, London, where some of Shakespear­e’s plays were rehearsed.

Peake was regularly commission­ed to paint the portraits of high-ranking members of Jacobean society.

But leading Shakespear­e expert Michael Dobson yesterday described it as ‘wishful thinking’ – and said it does not resemble the recognised portraits.

He said: ‘It is not labelled as a portrait of Shakespear­e, who would surely have insisted on having his coat of arms in one corner of the canvas.

‘It does not resemble either of the portraits of Shakespear­e vouched for by his family and friends, the Stratford funerary monument and the print on the title page of the First Folio.’

Only two paintings of Shakespear­e are recognised as valid. One is the engraving by Martin Droeshout in the First Folio of his plays, published in 1623.

The other is the effigy at his funeral monument in Holy Trinity Church in Stratford-upon-Avon.

‘Waiting to be rediscover­ed’

 ?? ?? Bold claim: The portrait bears Shakespear­e’s name
Bold claim: The portrait bears Shakespear­e’s name

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