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A hot young Shakespeare

March 10, 2009 |  2:03 pm


Today the man in the painting above was declared to be William Shakespeare -- with 90% certainty, according to professor Stanley Wells, a leading authority on the playwright. For more than 300 years, the portrait has hung in the properties of the Cobbe family, but the sitter's identity was unclear (at one point, he was mistaken for Sir Walter Raleigh). It is the only known portrait painted of William Shakespeare during his lifetime.

The Guardian notes:

That the painting looks more like a 26-year-old than a 46-year-old -- Shakespeare's age when it was likely painted -- may be down to the convention of the time when a painter should "polish out the wrinkles and increase the size of the pearls," according to Mark Broch, curator of the Cobbe collection. It seems likely the Earl of Southampton commissioned the Cobbe portrait, emphasising once more his closeness to Shakespeare.

In other words, the tradition of retouching goes waaaaaay back before Photoshop. With his soft brown hair and clear eyes, this new Shakespeare --  the 46-year-old, with his rosy 26-ish glow -- is pretty hot.

The painting isn't the only Shakespeare rediscovery this week. The BBC reported Monday that the Bard's first theater has been discovered by archeologists in London, about 1.5 meters, or five feet, below the city's current ground level. Taryn Nixon, an official with the Museum of London, told the BBC that it was located just outside the center of the city, in London's "suburbs of sin."

That William Shakespeare -- getting hotter all the time.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Oli Scarff / Getty Images