Lecture: The Cobbe PortraitAuthor: QQ-464094252: Narrator: Listen to part of a lecture in an art history class. Professor: Okay, today we're going to spice things up a bit by delving into the heart of a controversy that's brewing in the art world AND the literary world. You see, a painting's been discovered from within a family's private collection. It's known as – the Cobbe Portrait. And, some very well-respected scholars believe that this painting is an authentic portrait of the famous writer William Shakespeare made during his lifetime. Now presently there are only two images of Shakespeare that scholars consider to be authentic but they're not paintings. There's the funeral sculpture of his head and then there's the engraving of his head on the cover of his first collection of published works. Now the first task in authenticating the Cobbe Portrait as a portrait of Shakespeare was to establish whether the portrait was from the correct historical period. Through extensive testing, we know that the wood panel on which the Cobbe Portrait was painted comes from trees cut down during the late renaissance and that the oil paints used are also characteristic of that era. So the portrait has been shown to date from around 1610. In 1610 Shakespeare was 46 years old. The next piece of the puzzle was to determine the painting's original owner. The family that privately owned the portrait had a very impressive connection. It turns out that the current owner is a direct descendent of the very person who gave Shakespeare most visible public support and money to write his play. That person was the Earl of Southampton. So, two pieces of evidence support the claim that the Cobbe Portrait is Shakespeare. But not everyone agrees. Some scholars question the clothing worn by the man in the portrait. Take a look at it. Some point to the fact that hey – Shakespeare was a playwright – and, a playwright wouldn't be wearing such fancy attire. Playwrights didn't have high social status and at that time there were strict laws established by the ruling queen, Queen Elizabeth, that regulated who could wear what. Now this applied to specific fabrics, specific colors, and types of clothing. Penalties like fines could be legally imposed for dressing above one's social position. Some of that is true, but, by 1610 those laws were more relaxed, and people were demonstrating more social flexibility. So it's entirely possible that Shakespeare could have chosen to wear the outfit for a special occasion. Another point people bring up is that the man in the painting appears very youthful-like. Could this man in the image really be 46? Especially considering that that time period life wasn't easy and this image certainly doesn't look like the image of the heavier and slightly balding man in both the funeral statues and the public's engraving. Shakespeare only lived until he was 52 years old. So, could he have aged so very rapidly? In only 6 years? Well, in fact, the painting style from that time period typically idealized the person and painters created portraits that were very complimentary and people sometimes ended up looking nothing like their real selves. A fact to which doesn't make this investigative process easier. Now, one of our historians is very doubtful of the claims that this is Shakespeare. However she has different reasons than the ones I pointed out. To the art historians' way of thinking, and mine too I might add, this portrait is most likely of a completely different individual. You're probably thinking, wait a minute, you said that the Earl of Southampton was the original owner of this portrait, and that he was a very public supporter of Shakespeare. Oh, yes, that's true – however, here's the twist, apparently, Earl of Southampton was also a very vocal supporter of Sir Thomas Overbury, one of his political allies. During that time period, it wouldn't be at all unusual to have an ally's portrait in your collection. Additionally, documented portraits of Sir Thomas Overbury look incredibly similar to the controversial painting. They are a match with regards to age, facial shape, attire, and – they both share an intriguing detail. In the documented portraits of Overbury, his left ear has a characteristic shape – you can't really see it well in the image I showed you but the ear of the man in the Cobbe Portrait has the same peculiar shape.