Home / News / NPG curator repudiates “Shakespeare” portrait

NPG curator repudiates “Shakespeare” portrait

An article by Sarah Knapton that appeared in the London Telegraph yesterday (dated 20 March 2010) throws doubt on the newest “Shakespeare” portrait: “William Shakespeare portrait could be 16th century courtier: A portrait believed to be the only surving portrait of William Shakespeare painted in his lifetime could be the 17th century courtier Sir Thomas Overbury, an expert believes”.

The very pretty picture has gained  sudden popularity as the current face of the Bard, but like many other Shakespearean facts, appears in a state of flux. Knapton wrote:

The Jacobean painting from the family collection of art restorer Alec Cobbe was thought to be the bard because it closely resembled the engraving in Shakespeare’s First Folio. It is also noticeably similar to another painting believed to be the playwright owned by the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC.

But now experts believe the elaborate lace collar and gold embroided doublet are too grand for the playwright. Dr Tarnya Cooper, the sixteenth-century curator at the National Portrait Gallery in London, believes the portrait bears a greater likeness to Sir Thomas Ovebury.

She told The Times: “if anything, both works, the Folger and Cobbe portraits, are more likely to represent the courtier Sir Thomas Overbury”.

More info on Cobbe portrait:


About Linda Theil

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