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Painting Thought To Be First Portrait Of Shakespeare Is Actually Of Another Writer

03.20.2009 - William Shakespeare portrait could be 16th century courtier

England has been abuzz this March after a portrait thought to be the only one painted while the bard was still alive was unveiled. It turns out that the enthusiasm will be short-lived as it was revealed that the portrait is not of Shakespeare, but rather of Sir Thomas Overbury, a 17th century English poet and essayist.

The portrait belongs to Alec Cobbe, and has been in possession of the Cobbe family for centuries. However, Mr. Cobbe had thought the subject to be the Earl of Southampton. It was not until he saw a Shakespeare portrait, known as the "Folger" painting, that he realized the similarities between the subjects. Mr. Cobbe is now convinced that his painting is that of the bard himself.

Art historians disagree, however. They say that both portraits are of Sir Thomas Overbury.

Dr Tarnya Cooper, the sixteenth-century curator at the National Portrait Gallery in London, said: "If anything, both works, the Folger and Cobbe portraits, are more likely to represent the courtier Sir Thomas Overbury."

Even nearly 400 years after his death, Shakespeare continues to confuse and confound everyone. We're all Shakespeared out now, we're going to go pick up a Steven King novel—at least we know he exists.

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