Sakset/Fra hofta

Historien om hvordan Shakespeare-maleriet dukket opp, er fascinerende. Det hele begynte med at den nåværende eieren av Cobbes-samlingen besøkte en kunstutstilling i London hvor kjente Shakespeare-portretter var utstilt.

Det slo eieren at disse bildene var kopier av et bilde han hadde, og at det var av mye høyre kvalitet og følgelig måtte være det originale.

The Janssen Portrait of Shakespeare. Oil on panel, early 1610s, altered before 1770.

The experts said the portrait came to light when Alec Cobbe, an art restorer and heir to the family fortune, visited the National Portrait Gallery in London in 2006 to see an exhibition, «Searching for Shakespeare,» at which the Folger portrait was displayed. They said Mr. Cobbe concluded that the Folger portrait, whose authenticity had been doubted for decades, was a copy of the one that had been in his family’s art collection since the mid-18th century, with the family unaware that the man depicted might be Shakespeare.

Mr. Wells, the Shakespeare scholar, said that compared to the Cobbe portrait, the other portraits presented «an inanimate mask» of Shakespeare and that they were «dull copies of the original.» He added, «No one who has seen the four paintings can doubt that the Cobbe portrait is the original. You don’t need an expert to see that.»

Eksperter har studert Cobbe-bildet i tre år. De er overbevist om at det forestiller Shakespeare. Stanley Welles, leder av the Shakespeare Birthday Trust, med sete i Stratford on Avon, er ikke i tvil:

Mr. Wells and other experts said they were convinced after three years of studying the portrait, and after elaborate scientific tests at Cambridge University, that it was, in effect, the holy grail Shakespearean scholars had sought for centuries: a portrait done in Shakespeare’s lifetime, and the original from which other Shakespeare paintings of the period were copied. They said their studies showed it probably was painted in 1610, when Shakespeare was 46, and only a few years from his death in 1616.

In a brochure for an exhibition opening in Stratford in April, titled «Shakespeare Found,» the birthday trust offered a lyrical interpretation.

«His face is open and alive, with a rosy, rather sweet expression, perhaps suggestive of modesty,» it said. «There is nothing superior or haughty in the subject, which one might well expect to find in a face set off by such rich clothing. It is the face of a good listener, as well as of someone who exercised a natural restraint.»

Vitenskapelige studier viser at trepanelet er fra 16. århundre.

Scientific studies at Cambridge showed that the oak panel on which the Cobbe portrait was mounted came from trees felled in the last 20 years of the 16th century, pointing to a date for the painting in the early 1600s, experts at the news conference said. They said the paint used was also characteristic of that period, as was the intricate and costly style of the lace ruff worn by the man in the portrait..

Bildet har vært i Cobbe-familiens eie i 300 år. De fikk det av en slektning av Henry Wriothesley, the 3rd Earl of Southampton, som var Shakespeares litterære beskytter. Nå spekuleres det i at Shakespeare og han kan ha hatt en forbindelse.

In a handout for reporters, the trust said the portrait might open a new era in Shakespeare scholarship, giving fresh momentum, among other things, to generations of speculation as to whether the playwright, a married man with three children, was bisexual. Until now, that suggestion has hinged mostly on dedications to the Earl of Southampton that Shakespeare wrote with some of his best-loved poems and some of the sensual passages in his poems and plays, particularly his sonnets, most of which, the London scholars said, are centered on expressions of love and desire for men, not women.

«This Shakespeare is handsome and glamorous, so how does this change the way we think about him?» the handout said. «And do the painting and provenance tell us more about his sexuality, and possibly about the person to whom the sonnets are addressed?»

Is This a Shakespeare Which I See Before Me?