Sanders Portrait

An article on the NoSweatShakespeare  site outlines the various claims of the portraits that vie for the distinction of being representations of Shakespeare. Just as with Jesus, we all have a mental image of Shakespeare. Although we know that Jesus didn’t look like the conventional  pictures of him, with blue eyes, very light skin and well-brushed, long auburn hair, that image is everywhere, in paintings and in sculpture.

Similarly, Shakespeare is routinely represented by the Droeshout engraving, the picture that was used in the First Folio. So we think of him with a very high forehead, a very high collar, hair that falls down like flaps on either side of his face, and piercing eyes. But new research claims that this is the face of Shakespeare.

It’s the Sanders portrait, one that has always been a contender and the evidence has always been substantial. Now, however, the evidence for it’s being the true image of Shakespeare has just become stronger. Forensic tests have shown that the portrait dates to 1600, placing it at the right time.

The portrait shows Shakespeare at the age of thirty-nine. Looking at him it’s hard to think that he had only thirteen more years to live. And also, at thirty-nine, he was at the age when an eye-test might have improved his output, substantial as it already was. But there he was, writing late into the night, by candle-light One is tempted to paint a pair of glasses on to the portrait to see what he really looked like at thirty-nine.

A University of Guelph professor has helped reveal family connections between William Shakespeare and ancestors of the Ottawa owner of the portrait. Daniel Fischlin’s team has spent seven years unearthing the family connection between the Sanders and the Shakespeares. The portrait is owned by Lord Sullivan and has been handed down within the family. He is a descendent of the Sanders’ and the Guelph team has found a multitude of geographical connections and social interactions between the two families over hundreds of years.