In 2009, when the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust 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.
This exhibition is the first time the Cobbe portraits of Shakespeare and Southampton have been seen outside of the British Isles. Also on view are copies of books Shakespeare dedicated to the Earl of Southampton, a 1596 royal gift roll that records the Earl's New Year's gift to Elizabeth I, the Morgan's First Folio edition of the plays, and a portrait of Shakespeare acquired by Pierpont Morgan in 1910.
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