What’s This About A Wadlow Portrait?

I had to double check my archives because sometimes what I think is new, I actually wrote about years ago. But so far the word “Wadlow” doesn’t appear in my archives.

“Could This Be A Portrait of Young William Shakespeare?” That’s what you call clickbait in my universe 🙂

I don’t see the resemblance.

In the linked article above, an art historian makes her case. I’m not going to attempt to debate any of her points, because I don’t exactly have the credentials to do so. But it is a very interesting (lengthy) read, with almost as many footnotes and references as actual content.  I like when historians write because they tend not to offer unsubstantiated opinion, they point to documents.

Anyway, we’re not afraid of unsubstantiated opinions here. If I had to research and document everything I’ve ever wanted to say about Shakespeare I never would have started this site in the first place.

What do you think? Have you heard of this Wadlow portrait? Do you know anything about the “Is it Shakespeare?” question?  Is it?  I don’t think it looks anything like him (not counting the earring). I suppose we could argue that this one is supposedly painted from life rather than after his death, but the other portraits do all tend to look alike – even Cobbe – mostly around the eyes. Having this be a more accurate depiction of Shakespeare would make all those other ones, including the one on the front pages of the First Folio, pretty wrong.


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8 thoughts on “What’s This About A Wadlow Portrait?

  1. Not convinced by the linked article. She includes lots of citations in her footnotes. However, much of what she cites is from Wikipedia or online sources. I have trouble believing the veracity of much that I read on the internet. I don’t care how many websites claim otherwise, the Earth is not flat and NASA really sent men to the moon.
    Online sources are a good starting point. However, primary sources (original contemporary documentation) are your best bet for real information. Secondary sources (i.e. peer-reviewed books and articles) can be reasonably relied upon. Many of those sources have been digitized and are available from bona fide scholarly organizations.
    Reread the footnotes. Most of them do not cite the source of her information. Several are statements of her opinions and some even reference TV shows. During my grad school days, if I had presented a paper with such footnotes, it certainly would have been rejected.
    Another question arising from the article involves provenance. The ownership trail only goes back to the early 1960s.
    “The first and last questions are easily solved. I understand that the painting was acquired in the 1960s from a firm of London art restorers and dealers who were undertaking restoration work and selling items for the owners of a large house.” What was the firm’s name? What “Large house” did it come from? Prior to the Wadlow family’s purchase, there is no reliable history of the painting’s previous 400 or so years. That is a pretty big blank.
    Just looking at the portrait raises one immediate question in my mind. Was Shakespeare ever known to have amblyopia? Look at the alignment of the eyes. He seems to have what was commonly called lazy eye.

    Sorry about the ramble. Even 30 years out of grad school, sloppy scholarship still annoys me.

    1. Thank you for your comments,
      Please take a look at our website
      And further observations are welcome. There have been many articles written about the Wadlow Portrait (as named by a Shakespeare Historian) both for and against. The truth is, it just might be, and this needs to be proven one way or the other. All agree it is a fabulous portrait genuine to the period. Best wishes Steve Wadlow


    1. Alas the dates would not correspond for Sydney to be the Sitter. The portrait has been scrutinised by experts and subjected to technical analysis including dendrochronology, thus we have a time frame of 1600, probably five years plus or minus. Steve Wadlow

  2. Great you are entering into the discussion. The intention is to draw reactions, both positive and negative. However, the academics are interested in this portrait even if you aren’t. FYI – herewith the bibliography for the essay. Perhaps you would like to consider the difference between Endnotes and a Bibliography. The Wikipedia sources are for imagesm not facts. Within the list of books are original 16th century titles.


    Websites: accessed March 2017.












    http://www.christies.com/features/the-hugo-van-der-goes-painting-revealed-after-centuries/ dated 13th April, 2017 : accessed 5th May 2017.

    https://phys.org/news/2017-04-large-area-chemical-imaging-reveals-layers.html accessed 3rd April 2017.

    Anecdotes of painting in England: with some account of the principal artists; and incidental notes on other arts; collected by the late Mr. George Vertue; and now digested and published from his original MSS. by Mr. Horace Walpole. The second edit… by Walpole, Horace, 1717-1797. at http://ota.ox.ac.uk/id/4405 via http://writersinspire.org/content/anecdotes-painting-england-some-account-principal-artists-incidental-notes-other-arts. Accessed on Monday, June 19, 2017.


    The photograph of the Unknown Man (known as the Wadlow Portrait) is copyright of the Hamilton Kerr Institute, Cambridge, UK.

    Marguerite of Austria, Regent of the Netherlands 1506-1530: Peter van Coninxloo. Original National Gallery, London. Not on display.

    The Cobbe portrait – Anon : Hatchlands; National Trust, Surrey.

    National Portrait Gallery portraits referred to within the text by link:

    Sir Francis Drake 1581 (portrait miniature) – Nicholas Hilliard

    Sir Walter Raleigh 1585 (portrait miniature) – Nicholas Hilliard

    Sir Walter Raleigh 1588 – Anon

    Sir Walter Raleigh & Son 1602 – Anon

    The Chandos portrat – attr. to John Taylor


    Cenni, Cennino d’Andrea (1360-before 1427): The Craftsman’s Handbook; translated by Daniel V Thomson Jr. 1933; original publishers of 1933 translation Yale University Press; available today through http://www.doverpublications.com

    Hearn, Karen; Marcus Gheerhaerts II; Tate Publishing; Tate Enterprises Ltd., Millbank, London SW1P 4RG; 2002.

    Dynasties: Painting in Tudor & Jacobean England 1530 – 1630; ed. Karen Hearn; Tate Publishing; Tate Enterprises Ltd., Millbank, London SW1P 4RG; 1995.

    Hammerschmidt-Hummelm Hildegard; And the Flower Portrait of William Shakespeare is Genuine After All; Georg Olms Verlag AG; Hildesheim, Zurich, New York, 2010.

    Hilliard, Nicholas; A Treatise Concerning the Art of Limning; together with A More Compendious Discourse Concerning Ye Art of Liming by Edward Norgate; eds. R. K. R. Thornton & T. G. S. Cain; Mid Northumberland Arts Group, Northumberland in association with Carcanet New Press, Manchester; 1981

    Keirnan, Pauline; Filthy Shakespeare; Quercus, 2006.

    Stirling, Simon Andrew: Who Killed William Shakespeare; The Murderer, The Motive, The Means; The History Press; 2013.

    Treatise on Limming; Anon; 1573: republished by Richard Tothill 1598. Possibly by the court limner, Levina Teerlinc (article to follow)

    Waterhouse, Ellis: Painting in England 1530-1790: Penguin, London 1978.

    TV Documentary

    Shakespeare’s Tomb: Dr Helen Castor investigates. First Screened 26th March 2016 & available OnDemand All4.

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