it's a great life, if you don't weaken (matociquala) wrote,
it's a great life, if you don't weaken

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Blame this on riba_rambles, the source of all good rengeek links.

She links this Sunday Times article (that Sunday Times, not this Sunday Times) on a National Portrait Gallery (that National Portrait Gallery, not this National Portrait Gallery) (clear as mud? Good, yeah, me too.) article on an exhibit of purported Shakespeare portraits. The article does not reprint the illustrations, but you can see several of them here.

There are a few inaccuracies in the article, but what do you want? (Greene was not the only one of Shakespeare's contemporaries to be a bit snarky about him, for example, and Greene may not even have written that infamous polemic--some would blame wossname, the publisher of the pamphlet, who later retracted, as Greene was busy dying at the time.)

Here's a larger version of the "Stratford" portrait, and here's a larger version of the Chandos Portrait. (Turns out the earring is original, after all. Hey, go me.) I think those are arguably the same man, one a bit better-fed than the other--but the cheekbones, the sharp nose, the weak chin (seems to be a playwright trend there), the high forehead and the deep-set eyes match. (Arguably, also, they're not. Heh. There's this nasty little trick to Elizabethan portraits. They're painted on blanks, with standardized--idealized--proportions, and almost always in the exact same two-thirds view. Which is the reason why, when you look at enough of the damned things, they all start to look eerily related, and the bone structures all seem to match.)

As an example, take the much-discussed Grafton Portrait, variously argued to be Marlowe, Shakespeare, or neither. (Here's a smaller view; what it looks like post-restoration and cleaning). Then there's the Corpus Christi Portrait, which is now more generally accepted to be Marlowe. (It has fallen in and out of favor over the years: currently it's in, as is the Chandos.)  (Corpus Christi before restoration; no color photos exist.) As you can see, that painting has had a rough life. You see a lot of prints that turn him into a redhead and push the color values towards the ruddy, but this one is closer to the original, apparently. (I haven't seen the original. It's on my list of things to do. As are some of the Shakespeare ones.)

The Grafton is a little less idealized (check out that nose--you can kind of see how it might have been prettied up to turn into the nose on the Corpus Christi, if you squint) and I am really at a loss as to why commentators persist in describing him as a "beautiful" young man. Because, not to my taste at all. A little weaselly-looking, really, if you ask me. Nice doublet, though, which to me lends credence to the idea that if it's either of the two, it's Kit and not Will. Existing creditable portraits of Shakespeare show him in "sad" colors, with brown curly hair and (sometimes) a sparse beard. Our one creditable (but by no means confirmed) portrait of Kit has him decked out like a sumptuary fine in search of a magistrate--slashed doublet, flame-colored taffeta, gold buttons and all.

The Grafton portrait intrigues me for that reason; our young subject is wearing a falling collar of fine lawn rather than a ruff (more generally middle-class than noble), but his doublet is red and appears to be velvet by the sheen, which by rights should be restricted to the nobility. On the other hand, it's possible that the doublet is one of the off-reds (Really! It's tenne!), and thus not technically "scarlet" or "crimson," which would be the restricted colors.  (Here's the chart for women.) However, there's some dodgy wording at the end there regarding outerwear in velvet and silk "for comeliness only." And an astute reader will also note that the Queen's licensed entertainers are exempt from these rules. Which would include those associated with an acting troupe.

So it's not a deal breaker, in other words.

Of course, the subjects of all of these portraits have different eye colors. Shhh. I'm sure it's the artist's fault.
Tags: rengeekery, will & kit's bogus journey
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