Talk:William Shakespeare/Archive 16

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Possible new painting?

The headline is sensationalistic, but there's an article on a newly-found painting that looks more than a little like the engraving and the painting on this page, but also is of much superior quality artistically (actually looks like a real person, for one).,8599,1883770,00.html

zafiroblue05 | Talk 15:56, 9 March 2009 (UTC)

I noticed this headline too. Here's what I wrote on Commons:Village pump:
Right now the recently unveiled Cobbe portrait is making a big splash in the news. Digging through online sources I was able to come up with two pretty good low-resolution photographs (File:Shakespeare Cobbe painting TIME.jpg, File:Shakespeare_Cobbe_portrait_detail.jpg), but it looks like the owners are keeping a leash on higher-resolution photos. If we could find a magazine that's printing a high resolution photo and scan it, or get a photographer to visit the painting while it's on display (they may not permit photography), it would be a great help. Dcoetzee (talk) 21:02, 9 March 2009 (UTC)
Update: I've added these to Cobbe portrait. Dcoetzee 21:34, 9 March 2009 (UTC)
Good luck to Wells, but how that looks like the Droeshout I do not know. OK, similar (but different!) jacket, and similarly asquiff. Face, nothing like. Also nothing like the effigy, which was commissioned by people who knew Shakespeare. And could he have lost that much hair in six years? All very interesting, though.qp10qp (talk) 23:21, 9 March 2009 (UTC)
Yes, I've just heard Stanley Wells on the radio defending claims for the portait. As this 'new portrait' stuff crops up regularly perhaps we should note that the proper place for detailed discussion is the article on Portraits of Shakespeare. Paul B (talk) 00:17, 10 March 2009 (UTC)
Well, it certainly times out nicely with Wells upcoming book, which he also keeps mentioning. Ka-ching!Smatprt (talk) 00:28, 10 March 2009 (UTC)
There's no business like show business--no business I know.Tom Reedy (talk) 23:24, 10 March 2009 (UTC)

Proposed portrait change

I propose we make the Cobbe portrait the new main image.

Green tickYSupport.--The lorax (talk) 19:24, 10 March 2009 (UTC)

Green tickYSupport.--LoveOfFate (talk)

This shouldn't be decided by voting, in my opinion. The painting needs to be analysed by art scholars, who then must have their findings published. This will all take time. The rush to judgement in the newspapers is not something we should succumb to, surely. At that rate we would have four or five paintings of Shakespeare in the article by now.qp10qp (talk) 20:21, 10 March 2009 (UTC)

The Chandos has a long established status as a likely portrait of Shakespeare. The Cobbe doesn't. The change is wholly unwarranted. Paul B (talk) 21:41, 10 March 2009 (UTC)

  • I agree. the Chandos or the Folio frontspiece are the only contenders for the main pic, IMO. AndyJones (talk) 21:45, 10 March 2009 (UTC)
  • Once the Cobbe has actually been established as a portrait of Shakespeare, perhaps. As it is, AndyJones is right: Chandos or Droeshout are only real contenders at this point. Carlo (talk) 22:16, 10 March 2009 (UTC)
  • I agree that the Cobbe is not yet established. And it is doubtful whether is will become any more than "likely". In fact, Chandos still falls under the "likely" catagorie. Only the First Folio engraving has any real authority tied to it.Smatprt (talk) 23:05, 10 March 2009 (UTC)
  • I just posted the following on The Guardian (GB) website:

Whoever the subject and whichever their order, The Janssen painting in the Folger and the Cobbe painting are unmistakably related. I used a photo paint program to compare them as follows: 1. Load both paintings and size them identically. 2. Copy the head and shoulders of Cobbe and render the result 50% transparent. 3. Superimpose the transparency over the Folger.

As you move the transparency across the Folger image you can clearly see every detail beneath it. But when the transparent overlay is registered (and it registers perfectly, the two heads match so well that you can see only one.

As a newbie to this forum, I don't know how to post these graphics or even if I can. I am registered here as, and would gladly send my five small pix to anyone who inquires.Jim Stinson (talk) 00:33, 11 March 2009 (UTC)

    • Just as I wouldn't take an art expert's opinion on whether Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare, so I won't take a Shakespeare expert's opinion on whether a picture is actually that of Shakespeare. There are only three portraits that were labeled identifying them as Shakespeare, the Droeshout, the Stratford monument bust and the Sanders, and only one with a decent provenance supporting it, the Chandos. So no on the Cobbe.Tom Reedy (talk) 23:22, 10 March 2009 (UTC)

Also the Janssen painting in the Folger library. See above.Jim Stinson (talk) 00:33, 11 March 2009 (UTC)

Am I the only who has noticed that all of the "authentic" likenesses - Droeshout, Chandos and the Stratford monument - show a person with considerably less hair than the Cobbe portrait? Isn't that sort of odd, if the Cobbe is authentic? Carlo (talk) 00:04, 11 March 2009 (UTC)
I agree that we should wait awhile before making changes. In the meantime, the Cobbe portrait article is developing very well. Wrad (talk) 01:06, 11 March 2009 (UTC)

Green tickYSupport.--I came on here to check, so I'd assume there would be a discussion, yes absolutely change it to the Cobbe Portrait. Sir Richardson (talk) 12:39, 13 March 2009 (UTC)

Jim Stinson: That's part of the problem. The Jansenn and the Cobbe are obviously the same, and the Jansenn is Thomas Overbury, not William Shakespeare. Carlo (talk) 18:35, 14 March 2009 (UTC)

Green tickYSupport- the Overbury theories have never been authoritatively accepted as anything but very uncertain conjecture. There is never likely to be 100% certainty of any of the claims or assessments, but I am convinced that there is a very strong case that this is indeed, most likely, the oldest authentic image of all the known candidates, and the likely source of those now considered to be later copies of it, and should be used here. ~ Kalki (talk) 07:29, 15 March 2009 (UTC)

I would support it, but the likeness seems to match the picture on the Thomas Overbury page much more so than the frontispiece image of Shakespeare. --Scottandrewhutchins (talk) 12:44, 15 March 2009 (UTC)

I think Thomas Overbury might be a red herring here. What is interesting to me is that the portrait known as the Janssen (not actually by Cornelis Janssen, even) was discredited as a portrait of Shakespeare after the overpainting, which made the sitter look bald as in the Droeshout, was removed, showing his hair to be much as in the Cobbe. Of course, if the Cobbe is found to be of Shakespeare, then so must the "Janssen" be. But that's problematic: basing claims for the Cobbe on the claims for the Janssen would be silly, since the Janssen was only thought to be Shakespeare because the sitter was made to look so bald in it, which he no longer does. If the Cobbe be Shakespeare, we have to take on board that he suffered rapid hair loss in the six years till his death, and that the Chandos cannot be him unless he had a hair transplant.qp10qp (talk) 17:09, 16 March 2009 (UTC)
I've never been crazy about the Chandos Portait. I think he looks like a pirate. Perhaps the Droeshout, despite being black and white, should be the main image. --Scottandrewhutchins (talk) 17:44, 16 March 2009 (UTC)
In principle it's a good idea, but the Droeshout is well placed in the "Textual sources" section. qp10qp (talk) 19:27, 16 March 2009 (UTC)

Proposal external link

I propose to add to external link. I have no account.

Meisei University Shakespeare Collection Database —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 16:25, 14 March 2009 (UTC)


First of all, I must state that I do not want to change the actual portrait. I am simply concerned that the current (Cobbe) portrait has portions of the picture's frame showing at an angle. I propose that File:Cobbe portrait of Shakespeare.jpg is used instead. ajmint (talkemailcontribssubpages) 08:31, 16 March 2009 (UTC)

I've changed it back to the Chandos; see discussion above.qp10qp (talk) 14:52, 16 March 2009 (UTC)

New section has appeared

Someone has added the following. Do we need it? If so, I propose it be rewritten. Why, other than for recentism's sake, privilege the Cobbe over the various other portraits that have been proposed as of Shakespeare. They have more scholarship on them, at least. qp10qp (talk) 15:00, 16 March 2009 (UTC)

Physical appearance

There is no firm evidence that a portrait or pictures were ever commissioned by Shakespeare, and there is no written description of his physical appearance. The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust believes that the Cobbe portrait, discovered in 2006, is the "only authentic image of the Bard painted during his lifetime," and was used as the basis for other well-known depictions such as the Droeshout engraving on the cover of the First Folio, despite many differences in appearance.[181] However, the Droeshout portrait and the bust on Shakespeare's grave remain the only likenesses of Shakespeare that are known to have been regarded as accurate by his contemporaries. Other portraits of various vintages and levels of authenticity exist, such as the Chandos portrait.

I think we do need some discussion on this, since proposed portraits of S do get a lot of attention, even though the shape of his face has no relevance to anything. It's human nature to want to see the 'real person'. It might be integrated into the reputation section, since the existence of portraits in his lifetime is demonstrated because of the passage in the Parnassus plays, and the endless "discoveries" of new portraits is evidence of the persistent fascination and status of Shakespeare in the public mind. The Cobbe should not be picked out. I'm sure that the only reason that this has proven so appealing is that, unlike the other recent claimants, this portrait is an atttractive one, and that his prominent chin resembles Joseph Fiennes. Paul B (talk) 15:27, 16 March 2009 (UTC)
Maybe rename the to include both portraits and sculptures, too. "Physical appearance" doesn't seem right. Something like "artistic depictions of shakespeare" maybe. Wrad (talk) 16:25, 16 March 2009 (UTC)
Yes, we did have a section on sculptures briefly, but it was nuked, so now there are two separate articles Memorials to William Shakespeare and Portraits of Shakespeare, which should be linked here. On balance, I'm in favour of a separate small section. Paul B (talk) 16:37, 16 March 2009 (UTC)
What about just calling it Portraits of Shakespeare, as a summary of the main article? qp10qp (talk) 16:46, 16 March 2009 (UTC)
So, if there are no objections, I will add the section as suggested here. Paul B (talk) 17:52, 17 March 2009 (UTC)

Does anybody here remember "Shall I die?/Shall I fly?" and A Funeral Elegy for Master William Peter? Are we going to go through this every time a new "portrait" of Shakespeare is announced? And if that's the case, why is there no discussion of the Sanders portrait? How about Brian Vickers' deviant belief that the Shakespeare memorial was originally made for his father and later altered to suit his son? The Cobbe portrait is very much up in the air, and many authorities, some with the same stature as Stanley Wells, vehemently disagree that it's a portrait of Shakespeare. I think a general encyclopedia article should treat only established information, and trying to keep up with the daily news is outside the scope of a general encyclopedia article. Tom Reedy (talk) 03:01, 18 March 2009 (UTC)

I don't see why working up a section about portraits in general is a bad thing. We've already established that we don't want it to focus much, if at all, on the Cobbe portrait, so there shouldn't be a problem. Wrad (talk) 03:05, 18 March 2009 (UTC)
For one thing, isn't this article supposed to be a general biography? As far as we know, Shakespeare never painted any portraits. We had this same discussion about memorials and coffee cups. For another, there's already an article Portraits of Shakespeare, which I agree should be linked to this article.Tom Reedy (talk) 03:12, 18 March 2009 (UTC)
But it talks about his reputation... that isn't really biography. This article is supposed to be about Shakespeare, not strictly a biography. Wrad (talk) 03:16, 18 March 2009 (UTC)
His reputation is the reason why there's an article on him in the first place; the same with the discussions of the plays. If the article is supposed to be about Shakespeare, that would justify all sorts of extraneous entries: different critical interpretations though the centuries, Shakespeare and war, Shakespeare in popular culture, Shakespeare in non-English cultures, etc. etc. IMO a section on purported portraits would be more about opinions; not about Shakespeare. I'm not going to interfere if the vote goes to putting in a section; I'm just voicing my opinion. But even if the section is added, that won't make it about Shakespeare just because it's about Shakespeare.Tom Reedy (talk) 03:30, 18 March 2009 (UTC)
Surprising as this may be, as all the doubts over these portraits (and the "no written description" line) actually help feed the authorship debate, I'm going with Tom on this one. One more section about things we don't know and can't confirm? "no firm evidence that a portrait or pictures were ever commissioned by Shakespeare"? Is there any evidence at all that Shakespeare himself ever commissioned anything? I don't think so. The Cobbe is simply the flavor of the month - why give it so much prominence when more scholars than Wells actually disagree with his assessment? Can't we recognize that this may merely be a publicity stunt, as it times so very neatly with Wells upcoming book and Shakespeare's "birthday"? I say run some of the portraits with short captions such as "The Cobbe Portrait, artist and authenticity unconfirmed". That's what we did with the Chandos. Regardless, the section is poorly written and unbalanced. If it stays, it needs a major rewrite.Smatprt (talk) 05:29, 18 March 2009 (UTC)
That's what pretty much everyone is saying. Nobody wants this to be a "praise to Cobbe" section. Wrad (talk) 05:34, 18 March 2009 (UTC)
I tried a rewrite, but I still think the whole section should go. It's not a speculation about Shakespeare - it's a speculation about portraits of him. Very different.Smatprt (talk) 06:02, 18 March 2009 (UTC)
I don't know why Tom is so opposed to sections on portraits and memorials. The repeated clamour for portraits is a significant part of the history of Shakespeare's reputation. Possibly the section could become part of the reputation bit, as I said above, but I see nothing wrong in a separate section. I've rewritten it as a summary of the article, not as an exercise in Cobbe-mania. There are no notes as yet, but they can be imported if this remains stable. Paul B (talk) 08:49, 18 March 2009 (UTC)

It's not just the topic that determines my opposition. Anything that degrades the quality of the article should not be in it. This particular section presents a negative as real information (why not say there's no evidence he ever commissioned a song and then add an article about all the operas based on his works?),presents speculation as fact ("Within living memory of his death new portraits were also created based on the Chandos portrait"), lacks citations and gives so little information as to be useless. It's so poorly written it reads like the entire article did before we brought it to featured status, and unfortunately, making it read better won't add anything to the article. Keep it if you want, but it's the nose under the tent that will lead to loss of focus and to poor quality additions to this article. and as far as the "repeated clamour for portraits", how about giving us a citation on that? The celebrity cult we live in now wasn't invented until much later.Tom Reedy (talk) 14:39, 18 March 2009 (UTC)

I think we should have a patient discussion before deciding whether the section should stay. The clamour does need a ref, but the rest can easily be adjusted/reffed, which Paul intends to do. I don't think we need worry too much about the quality of writing yet; I'm sure we can make it sharp, by and by. The memorial stuff is a little repetitive of what we already have higher up. I agree with Tom that we are largely talking about shadow information in this section; but so are we in the bits about Shakespeare's lost years, what parts he may have played, and so forth. On the other hand, I don't see the point in mentioning portraits that have been discredited, such as the Flower portrait. Another worry is that this section may become a magnet for all the latest news stories about so-called portraits of Shakespeare. I am reasonably optimistic that this article will not degrade, given the care and interest taken in it. Lets regard this section as a work in progress for a while.qp10qp (talk) 15:11, 18 March 2009 (UTC)
"I think we should have a patient discussion before deciding whether the section should stay." Isn't that what we're doing? IMO one sentence to point to the Portraits of Shakespeare should be sufficient.Tom Reedy (talk) 15:29, 18 March 2009 (UTC)
"The clamour does need a ref". The section never says anything about a clamour. That was a remark on this talk page. Paul B (talk) 15:52, 18 March 2009 (UTC)
There is no need to cite statements on talk pages, but it's obvious that here has been a strong demand for portraits and that there has been an incentive to fake/repaint portraits to make them into "Shakespeare" since the mid-18th century, so your comment that "the celebrity cult we live in now wasn't invented until much later" is not entirely accurate, to say the least. There was a thriving print market for images of celebrities. In addition, the value of an otherwise worthless "Portrait of Somebody" could be greatly increased by a bit of judicious repainting. The comment about songs is odd, and irrelevant. To my knowledge no-one has ever claimed to have discovered tunes written by him, though of course his plays do contain song-lyrics. The section's opening sentence - that there is no evidence that he commissioned a portrait - need not be there (it was part of the original section before I altered it), but serves to introduce us to the uncertainties of the topic. The statement that "Within living memory of his death new portraits were also created based on the Chandos portrait" is not speculation. It is the consensus of art historians. That's no more speculation than much else that's in the article. Paul B (talk) 15:48, 18 March 2009 (UTC)
I would certainly be interested in a source for the consensus of art historians. As far as I know, the only portrait "within living memory of his death" based on the Chandos was the Chesterfield, dated 1660-1670, and possibly a few details of the Soest, dated the same.Tom Reedy (talk) 17:22, 18 March 2009 (UTC)
Yes, the Chesterfield and the Soest are the two. The costume of the Soest is understood to be partly derived from the Chandos. Paul B (talk) 17:54, 18 March 2009 (UTC)
What about where to place this material? It's surely not speculation the way the article is formatted, which is speculation about the man himself. Paul has suggested integrating it into the reputation section, which seems a bit better than where it is now. Any other possible locations? Or do we just leave it where it is?

Having just looked at the article again, perhaps this info should be tagged on to the end of the Later Years and Death section, which ends with mention of the bust and other memorials. It would seem to fit best there. I'll move it over there so we can take a look.Smatprt (talk) 04:59, 19 March 2009 (UTC)

Ok, I was Bold and made some changes. After reading the article a few more times, I saw the duplication of several lines about the bust. So I moved most of the new section, adding it to the first appearance of the bust and memorials. This allowed the deletion of the duplicate lines and seems to flow fairly well. I then looked at the remaining section and it became more of a true speculation about Shakespeare's physical appearance. So... I renamed the section to Physical appearance, which is an actual speculation about the man himself, and not about a series of questionable portraits. This also reduces the section to a length comparable with the other sub-sections, which I believe was in keeping with Tom's suggestion that the article simply state one line on this topic, with a link to the main article. So have a look, everyone, and have at it! Smatprt (talk) 05:46, 19 March 2009 (UTC)

If we place the info at the end of the biography, which I wouldn't be against so long as it can be shortened, then the "Physical appearance" section should surely be dispensed with. Our evidence for what he looked like lies in the Droeshout and the memorial, after all. qp10qp (talk) 15:38, 19 March 2009 (UTC)
I agree that the section is pointless without that material, which is why I've moved it back but cut it down. I don't think it fits on the end of the biography, partly because the Droeshout was put after the section on the 18th century memorials, but also because this is properly included in the speculations sub-section, since it forms the basis for the repeated speculations about authentic portraits and the theories - ranging from the sensible to the silly - that go along with them. Paul B (talk) 15:48, 19 March 2009 (UTC)
If this section is going to be called "Physical appearance" (which I do not like), surely the obvious needs to be in there somewhere, which is that, according to the Droeshout and the memorial, he was balding.
Also, this business about the Parnassus reference seems to me very marginal. In my opinion, we do not need this to tell us that Shakespeare was portrayed, since the Droeshout must have been based on a painting. The Parnassus plays were satirical and sarcastic, by the way. If we are to have this, we need the name of the character and more textual detail, in keeping with the conscientiousness of the rest of the article. Otherwise, we are expected to accept a very large inference on the basis of a very bland allusion.qp10qp (talk) 17:39, 20 March 2009 (UTC)
I have tracked this down (in the Wells article in Nolen) to be a character called Gullio (how apt). However, Wells calls this "faint evidence" (ha ha, I bet he's bigging it up now). The Droeshout is strong evidence, given the age of the engraver, that a source painting (or another engraving) must have existed. The memorial does not seem to be based on the same source, and since I doubt the sculptor did it from memory, that would make two other images of Shakespeare, minimum. So the Parnassus quote is not needed to make the point.qp10qp (talk) 18:29, 20 March 2009 (UTC)
Faint evidence indeed! I agree. Of course it is - it's a line from a play. I agree it's very marginal and even (the old) Wells agreed. I would hesitate to say, however, that Droeshout "must" have been made from a painting. Likely, perhaps, but we can never say "must" unless the evidence is absolute. I also agree that the section is named correctly, if it is to stay. Aren't the speculations about Shakespeare, not a product line of portraits? Yes, they are connected, but this article is about the man, right? This conversation, however, does lead me revisit where this stuff is best placed. It really seems to me that the memorial and Droeshout are best discussed at the end of the biography, and not split up. My previous edit was reverted before receiving much comment, and frankly, I weary a bit of this exercise. But I do care about the article so will ask the editors (aside from Paul, who has explained his position and reverted my edit), does anyone else have a comment on this? So to be clear, my recommendation would be to add some Droeshout info into the section about the Bust (end of bio), and either a) delete this speculation, or b) put in a few lines about the speculation about his physical appearance based on not having a written description or a confirmed portrait created during his lifetime. Tom, Wrad, Qp10qp - your comments? Thanks for playing! Smatprt (talk) 23:04, 20 March 2009 (UTC)

I think your idea about putting a sentence at the end of the bio with an embedded link is the best one for now. Something on the order of "Shakespeare has been commemorated in many statues and memorials around the world, including funeral monuments in Southwark Cathedral and Poet's Corner in Westminster Abbey. His reputation has also fueled the search for authentic portraits of him." with a link to the main portrait article embedded in "portraits." (BTW, reading it over, this section is a reflection of typical media frenzy that begins with wild excitement and never fails to end in disappointment as reality sinks in, which is a good reason to err on the side of conservatism when it comes to changing this article. After all, it can always be changed once a new fact is confirmed, but trying to be trendy is not the purpose of a general encyclopedia.)Tom Reedy (talk) 14:52, 22 March 2009 (UTC)

We don't call the section "Physical appearance" because, for now, it doesn't say a thing about his physical appearance, just his possible portraiture. Please don't change it back unless you also add some cited, scholarly stuff about his appearance. It makes no sense otherwise. Wrad (talk) 23:38, 20 March 2009 (UTC)
Is everything you're adding cited? It looks like you're just adding new words between the old refs, words which say completely different things. I'm more concerned that we cite things right than about any of this other stuff. Wrad (talk) 23:45, 20 March 2009 (UTC)
No problem, Wrad, everything is cited now, but really, what a silly exercise. Did you really feel it controversial and in desperate need of cites to comment that Shakespeare' bald pate has been often mentioned, or that there are similarities between the Droeshout and the memorial bust??? What on earth drives you to such extremes? Shall we cite every third word in the entire article??? Jeez. Smatprt (talk) 06:26, 21 March 2009 (UTC)
This is a featured article, isn't it? Supposedly that means it is high quality? Has citations? Uncited junk doesn't belong? Or do you have a different idea of what that means? Do you really consider it a "silly exercise"? Without reliable citations, Wikipedia is nothing more than a rumor mill. Wrad (talk) 17:20, 21 March 2009 (UTC)
Avoiding simple questions again makes it kind of obvious that you are just being defensive. So again I ask: Did you really feel it controversial and in desperate need of cites to comment that Shakespeare' bald pate has been often mentioned, or that there are similarities between the Droeshout and the memorial bust??? And since you haven't cited any "uncited junk" that I have contributed, it leads me to believe that you are just being overly emotional, as you usually are when you don't immediately get your way. If you want a cite on something specific, then just post a cite tag. How hard is that, WRAD? In the mean time, quite frankly, I think YOU are just being silly.Smatprt (talk) 06:58, 22 March 2009 (UTC)

If I'm honest, I don't see the need for any of this material at all (but this is Wikipedia and one tries to make the best of things). Each day that goes by, it seems more people speak up in the papers against the Cobbe portrait. In this light, does the interest it sparked still require us to have new material? I think we are back where we started, with the Droeshout and the memorial as the evidence of Shakespeare's appearance, and the Chandos as a portrait with at least some circumstantial possibilities. So the readers of the article can perfectly well see what Shakespeare might have looked like by looking at the images. Of course, the interest in possible Shakespeare portraits is a sociological phenomenon which perhaps it is necessary to mention, I don't know. If so, I think we could despatch it in a single sentence discreetly within the text, without the need for a special section. However, I'm willing to discuss this as long as it takes. I have good sources on all the portraits except, of course, for the wretched Cobbe. qp10qp (talk) 01:17, 21 March 2009 (UTC)

Here ya go: Reedy (talk) 14:41, 22 March 2009 (UTC)
Frankly, I agree with Qp10qp on this. And Tom Reedy. The whole section should just go. It was generated by Cobbe fever. And the Cobbe is a joke. As has been said by at least one noted art expert, and numerous other individuals - it's far more likely that it's some nobleman, probably Overbury, possibly some anonymous coutier. I agree with Qp10qp, there is no need for this material in the article. And I agree with Tom that it's akin to separate sections on memorials and coffee cups. I really see no need for it. Why not just link to the portrait article somewhere in the text? Smatprt (talk) 06:36, 21 March 2009 (UTC)