“The Chandos Portrait of William Shakespeare” is believed to depict Shakespeare (1564–1616), because the engraved portrait of Shakespeare, on the title page of the first publication of his works, shows distinct similarities when compared to this painting. It has not been possible to determine with certainty who painted the portrait, nor whether it depicts Shakespeare.
William Shakespeare was an English poet, playwright and actor, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the pre-eminent dramatist. His plays have been translated into every major living language and are performed more often than those of any other playwright.
The relatively dusky features of this portrait have caused some commentators to argue that this portrait has a “un-English” look and that the beard and eyes make the subject look more European. The reality is that sixteenth-century Englishmen came in a wide variety of complexions, reflecting the mixed ancestry of Anglo-Saxon, Irish, British, Viking, Norman, Roman, French and many other ethnic sources.
This historic painting is named after the Dukes of Chandos, who formerly owned the picture. The portrait was given to the National Portrait Gallery, London on its foundation in 1856, and it is listed as the first work in its collection.
- Title: The Chandos Portrait of William Shakespeare
- Artist: Attributed to John Taylor
- Date: c. 1600s
- Medium: Oil on canvas
- Dimensions: 55.2 cm × 43.8 cm ( 21 3⁄4 in × 17 1⁄4 in)
- Museum: National Portrait Gallery, London
Artist Essential Facts:
- Name: John Taylor
- Born: c. 1585 – England
- Died: 1651 – England
- Nationality: English
“It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves.” William Shakespeare
Photo Credit: 1) By It may be by a painter called John Taylor who was an important member of the Painter-Stainers’ Company. (Official gallery link) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons