The Methuen Shakespeare
Shakespeare’s Birthplace, Stratford-upon-Avon, England
Everyone thinks they know what William Shakespeare looked like. Longish, brown hair, a goatee beard and a golden earring. And he probably wore tights. But there are only two works of art that definitely, beyond all doubt, represent Shakespeare. And both of those may have been put together after his death. The first is the engraving from the front of the first collection of his works (the one where he has a neat-looking bob-style hair do, and is wearing a big, starchy white collar). And the other is the bust that forms part of his funeral monument in the Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon. It was put up within six years of his death. His widow, Anne, must have seen the bust and approved it. So it’s assumed to be a reasonable likeness. And then, in 2009, the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust and the eminent Shakespeare professor Stanley Wells announced that another portrait of Shakespeare had been identified. It was known as the Cobbe Portrait, as it had belonged to the Cobbe family since the 18th century, and is believed to once have been the property of Shakespeare’s patron, the Earl of Southampton. In fact, as Shakespeare’s patron, the Earl of Southampton may even have commissioned the portrait himself. Of course, there were some scholars and experts who disput the identification of the man in the Cobbe Portrait as Shakespeare. But the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust was undeterred. And to celebrate the discovery, they commissioned this bust, which is based on the portrait. The artist they chose for the project was Judy Methuen. Hence, the Methuen Shakespeare. It shows Shakespeare as we’d all like to see him. A big, starchy collar. Longish, brown hair. A goatee beard. All that’s missing is that pair of tights.