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ETORE the patronage of the publick is folicited in favour of a new engraving from the only genuine portrait of Shakspeare, it is proper that every circumftance relative to the difcovery of it fhould be faithfully and circumftantially related.

On Friday, Auguft 9, Mr. Richardfon, printfeller, of Caftle Street, Leicefter Square, affured Mr. Steevens that, in the courfe of business having recently waited on Mr. Felton, of Curzon Street, May Fair, this gentleman fhowed him an ancient head refembling the portrait of Shakspeare as engraved by Martin Droefhout in 1623.

Having frequently been misled by fimilar reports founded on inaccuracy of obfervation or uncertainty of recollection, Mr. Steevens was defirous to fee the Portrait itself, that the authenticity of it might be afcertained by a deliberate comparifon with Droefhout's performance. Mr. Felton, in the most obliging and liberal manner, permitted Mr. Richardfon to bring the head, frame and all, away with him; and several unquestionable judges have concurred in pronouncing that the plate of Droefhout conveys not only a general likenefs of its original, but an exact and particular one as far as this artift

had ability to execute his undertaking. Droefhout could follow the outlines of a face with tolerable accuracy but ufually left them as hard as if hewn out of a rock. Thus, in the prefent inftance, he has fervilely transferred the features of Shakspeare from the painting to the copper, omitting every trait of the mild and benevolent character which his portrait fo decidedly affords. There are, indeed, juft fuch marks of a placid and amiable difpofition in this resemblance of our poet, as his admirers would have wifhed to find.

This Portrait is not painted on canvas, like the Chandos Head,5 but on wood. Little more of it

• Of fome volunteer infidelities, however, Droefhout may be convicted. It is evident from the picture that Shakspeare was partly bald, and confequently that his forehead appeared unufually high. To remedy, therefore, what feemed a defect to the engraver, he has amplified the brow on the right fide. For the fake of a more picturefque, effect, he has alfo incurvated the line in the fore part of the ruff, though in the original it is mathematically ftraight. See note 9, p. 6..

It may be observed, however, to thofe who examine trifles with rigour, that our early-engraved portraits were produced in the age when few had fkill or opportunity to ascertain their faithfulness or infidelity. The confident artift therefore affumed the liberty of altering where he thought he could improve. The rapid workman was in too much hafte to give his outline with correctness; and the mere drudge in his profeffion contented himfelf by placing a caput mortuum of his original before the publick. In fhort, the inducements to be licentious or inaccurate, were numerous; and the rewards of exactnefs were feldom attainable, most of our ancient heads of authors being done, at ftated prices, for bookfellers, who were careless about the verifimilitude of engravings which fashion not unfrequently obliged them to infert in the title-pages of works that deserved no fuch expenfive decorations.

5 A living artift, who was apprentice to Roubiliac, declares that when that elegant ftatuary undertook to execute the figure of Shakspeare for Mr. Garrick, the Chandos picture was borrowed; but that it was, even then, regarded as a performance

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than the entire countenance and part of the ruff is left; for the pannel having been split off on one fide, the reft was curtailed and adapted to a small frame.6 On the back of it is the following infcription, written in a very old hand: "Guil. Shakfpeare,7 1597.8 R. N." Whether these initials belong to the painter, or a former owner of the picture, is uncertain. It is clear, however, that this is the identical head from which not only the engraving by Droefhout in 1623, but that of Marshall 9 in 1640 was made; and though the hazards our

of fufpicious afpect; though for want of a more authentick archetype, fome few hints were received, or pretended to be received, from it.

Roubiliac, towards the clofe of his life, amufed himself by painting in oil, though with little fuccefs. Mr. Felton has his poor copy of the Chandos picture, in which our author exhibits the complexion of a Jew, or rather that of a chimney-sweeper in the jaundice.

It is fingular that neither Garrick, or his friends, fhould have defired Roubiliac at least to look at the two earliefst prints of Shakspeare; and yet even Scheemaker is known to have had no other model for our author's head, than the mezzotinto by Zoust.

• A broker now in the Minories declares, that it is his ufual practice to cut down fuch portraits, as are painted on wood, to the fize of fuch fpare frames as he happens to have in his poffeffion.

7 It is obfervable, that this hand-writing is of the age of Elizabeth, and that the name of Shakspeare is fet down as he himfelf has fpelt it.

The age of the perfon represented agrees with the date on the back of the picture. In 1597 our author was in his 33d year, and in the meridian of his reputation, a period at which his resemblance was moft likely to have been fecured.

• It has hitherto been fuppofed that Marshall's production was borrowed from that of his predeceffor. But it is now manifest that he has given the very fingular ruff of Shakspeare as it ftands in the original picture, and not as it appears in the plate from it by Martin Droeshout.

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author's likeness was expofed to, may have been numerous, it is ftill in good prefervation.

But, as further particulars may be wifhed for, it fhould be fubjoined, that in the Catalogue of "The fourth Exhibition and Sale by private Contract at the European Museum, King Street, St. James's Square, 1792," this picture was announced to the publick in the following words:

"No. 359. A curious portrait of Shakspeare, painted in 1597.'


On the 31ft of May, 1792, Mr. Felton bought it for five guineas; and afterwards urging fome inquiry concerning the place it came from, Mr. Wilson, the conductor of the Museum already mentioned, wrote to him as follows:

"To Mr. S. Felton, Drayton, Shropshire.

(6 SIR,

"The Head of Shakespeare was purchased out of an old house known by the fign of the Boar in Eaftcheap, London, where Shakespeare and his friends ufed to refort, and report fays, was painted by a Player of that time,' but whose name I have not been able to learn.

"I am, Sir, with great regard,

"Your moft obedt. fervant,
"J. Wilfon."

"Sept. 11, 1792."

The player alluded to was Richard Burbage.

A Gentleman who, for feveral years paft, has collected as many pictures of Shakspeare as he could hear of, (in the hope that he might at laft procure a genuine one,) declares that the

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Auguft 11, 1794, Mr. Wilfon affured Mr. Steevens, that this portrait was found between four and five years ago at a broker's fhop in the Minories, by a man of fashion, whofe name must be concealed: that it afterwards came (attended by the Eaftcheap story, &c.) with a part of that gentleman's collection of paintings, to be fold at the European Mufeum, and was exhibited there for about three months, during which time it was feen by Lord Leicester and Lord Orford, who both allowed it to be a genuine picture of Shakspeare. It is natural to fuppofe that the mutilated state of it prevented either of their Lordships from becoming its purchafer.

How far the report on which Mr. Wilfon's narratives (refpecting the place where this picture was met with, &c.) were built, can be verified by evidence at present within reach, is quite immaterial, as our great dramatick author's portrait difplays indubitable marks of its own authenticity. It is apparently not the work of an amateur, but of an artift by profeffion; and therefore could hardly have been the production of Burbage, the principal actor of his time, who (though he certainly handled the pencil) must have had infufficient leisure to perfect himself in oil-painting, which was then fo little understood and practifed by the natives of this kingdom.2

Eaftcheap legend has accompanied the majority of them, from whatever quarter they were transmitted.

It is therefore high time that picture-dealers fhould avail themfelves of another ftory, this being completely worn out, and no longer fit for fervice.

2 Much confidence, perhaps, ought not to be placed in this remark, as a fucceflion of limners now unknown might have purfued their art in England from the time of Hans Holbein to that of Queen Elizabeth.

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