Washington: Scientists have discovered two previously unknown portraits of English playwright William Shakespeare – one which shows the Bard in his young age and another which shows his whole person for the first time.
Hildegard Hammerschmidt-Hummel, a professor of English at Mainz University, Germany, said he subjected the images to fundamental tests of identity and authenticity, and found they were “true-to-life portraits of Shakespeare.”
One portrait, possibly painted around 1594, when Shakespeare was about 30 years old, depicts only the facial features of the Bard of Avon.
Hung in the bedchamber of Prince Franz (1740 1817), in the Gothic House of the Dessau-Worlitz Garden Realm, the portrait was seized by the Soviet army in 1945.
Archival research shows Prince Franz brought the picture from his trip to England from 1763 to 1764. Records show it was given to him as a gift by Thomas Hart, a distant relative of Shakespeare, ‘Discovery News’ reported.
The second portrait shows the whole person of Shakespeare for the first time.
“We can see he wasn’t a very tall man,” Hammerschmidt-Hummel said.
The painting shows Shakespeare at the age of 50, about two years before his death and it portrays the Bard as an affluent, older gentleman living in retirement.
The portrait shows Shakespeare sitting on an elaborately carved chair, holding a book in his left hand and resting his right hand on the head of a dog, which is sitting to his right.
Careful examination of the image has determined the breed of the dog, which appears to be a Lurcher, a cross between a Greyhound and a working dog.
“I am calling it the Boaden Portrait because I found it in a rare, richly illustrated edition of James Boaden’s work of 1824,” Hammerschmidt-Hummel said.
Announced on the 450th anniversary of the playwright’s birth, the new finding adds to four portraits of the Bard which Hammerschmidt-Hummel authenticated in 2006.
Before then, only two likenesses of Shakespeare, both posthumous, were accepted as authentic: a bust on his tomb in Stratford’s Holy Trinity Church and an engraving shown in the Folio edition of his plays in 1623.