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Exhibitions | Past

The Changing Face of William Shakespeare
February 4 through May 1, 2011


Artist unknown, The Cobbe Portrait of William Shakespeare, ca. 1610, oil on panel. Collection of Archbishop Charles Cobbe (1686–1765); Cobbe Collection, Hatchlands Park.

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In 2009, when the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust in Stratford-upon-Avon unveiled a previously unknown portrait painting with strong claims to be the only surviving life-time portrait of William Shakespeare, it created an international sensation. The Jacobean painting had hung unrecognized for centuries in an Irish country house belonging to the Cobbe family. Both this portrait and a recently identified portrait of Shakespeare's patron and dedicatee, Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton, were inherited by Archbishop Charles Cobbe (1686-1765). Recent technical analysis—as well as the portrait's superior quality—has established it as the original of a long series of portraits traditionally identified as Shakespeare. The Cobbe portrait has significant resemblances in costume and design to Martin Droeshout's engraving of Shakespeare published in the First Folio (1623), and bears a Latin inscription, taken from a poem by Horace, addressed to a playwright.

Also on view for the first time in the United States are the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust's recently acquired "Ellenborough" portrait of Shakespeare; the privately-owned Fitzgerald portrait of Shakespeare; and a copy of Venus and Adonis, the narrative poem Shakespeare dedicated to his patron, the 3rd Earl of Southampton, in 1593. Works from the Morgan's collection on display in the exhibition include an important New Year's gift roll that records the earl's gift to Elizabeth I in 1596; the Morgan's first folio edition of Shakespeare's plays (1623); and a portrait of Shakespeare acquired by Pierpont Morgan in 1910.

Related Programs:

Lecture
Rome and Rhetoric: Shakespeare's Julius Caesar
Wednesday, March 9, 6:30 p.m.

Gallery Talk
The Changing Face of William Shakespeare
Friday, March 18, 7 p.m.

Dramatic Reading
Shakespeare and Southampton
Wednesday, March 23, 7 p.m.

Family Program
Tonight, Tonight: Romeo and Juliet Meet on the West Side
Saturday, April 9, 2–3 p.m.

Dramatic Reading
Shakespeare Works: Much Ado About Nothing
Thursday, April 28, 7 p.m.

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The programs of The Morgan Library & Museum are made possible with public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.

Background images: Photography by Todd Eberle unless otherwise noted. © 2006 Todd Eberle.