« PreviousContinue »
trasts which are perplexing, both to the artist and the public. As it becomes necessary to make a selection of those which have the best claim to examination, it will reduce the series of portraits to those reputed to be the work of Droeshout; that of Taylor, or Burbage, called the Chandos, and now belonging to the National Portrait Gallery; the Zetland, the Lumley, and the Jansen Portraits. These have formed the materials out of which many pictures have been painted-such as the Warwick, the Felton, and other portraits.
Several of the portraits exhibited differ very much in some essential features; while other elements could not exist together in the same head, or in that of a poet of Shakspere's proclivities. The forms of the head are as various as the physiognomies are perplexing ; while the colours of the complexion are equally contradictory. If we are to rely on one artist, then Shakspere had a head enormously enlarged in the coronal region, as in the Felton head; while other portraits indicate the brain deficient in the moral sentiments. According to the painters, the eyes of the poet were, at the same time, black, brown, and blue; his nose, too, in one portrait is Roman, in another Grecian, a third aquiline, a fourth snub, and others are of the composite order. The upper lip in one likeness is very short, in another very long. The hair, moustache, and beard are painted by one as black, another brown, a third reddishbrown, and by others flaxen ; and the complexion all shades, from very fair and light to very dark. These opposite attributes reduce the range of view to the elements of form. and proportion in the facial contour, the cerebral developments, and the physical conformation of the body. The temperament was evidently a combination in which the mental, the nervous, and sanguine predominated, imparting great susceptibility, quickness, and love of action, which were undoubtedly attributes and characteristics of Shakspere's physical tendencies.
The Proeshout Portrait. Next to the bust in the church, the engraved portrait by Droeshout claims our attention. It was prefixed to the first edition of Shakspere's plays, published by Heminge ånd Condell in 1623, and is believed by Mr. Halliwell to
have been engraved from an original picture. Heminge and Condell were “fellow-players” with Shakspere, and knew him well and intimately. The portrait has the further testimony in its favour in the following lines by Ben Jonson, a friend and companion of the poet, and inscribed on the page opposite to the engraving :
The figure thou here see'st put,
It was for gentle Shakspere cut,
With Nature, to outdoe the life;
As well in brasse as he hath hit
All that was ever writ in brasse ;
Not on his Picture, but his Booke.-B.'J. These lines indicate that the face was represented with some degree of truth and faithfulness. It may, however, be observed, that Droeshout could scarcely have delineated Shakspere from his own knowledge, as the artist was not in England until after the death of the poet. He did not copy the cast from the face now in the British Museum, and probably relied either on Ben Jonson or Burbage for a portrait and description, or he took the Stratford bust for his model. But this is very doubtful, because he was a faithful copyist, and the engraved portrait and the bust are materially different.
It may be observed that the collar is not of the fashion of Shakspere's class at that period. Artists have, until the present century, paid greater attention to the face and costume than to the head. They are, with a few exceptions, even yet less exact and minute in the delineation of the head than the face. Now, the configuration of the head is the best biography of a man of intellect, talent, and character. The Droeshout head appears too high for its breadth, and inclines to a greater resemblance of form seen in Scott than Byron, Canova_than Chantry, West than Flaxman, of Wordsworth than Burns. If there is a slight similarity to the general form in the face of the Stratford bust, there are striking differences in particular features. The nose is more prominent, well defined, and finely marked, with a flowing outline, and the nostrils rather
large. There is the long upper lip, and a general correspondence with the mouth of the cast and the bust. The eyes are large, and in life would be full and lustrous, but not so prominent as in the bust, the Stratford, or the Chandos portraits. The head, however, is comparatively narrow, and so very marked in this respect that it indicates not only weakness in the portrait, but feebleness in the character, and tends to diminish my reliance on its accuracy as a faithful likeness, at least as regards this portion of the picture. The organ of Secretiveness, so essential to the actor, the critic, and the student of character, is indicated as very small. If Shakspere was not the best of actors, he was acknowledged to be a successful teacher of those players who sought his instructions as a tutor, as in the case of Taylor and others, who became eminent on the stage in their elucutionary delivery. The organ of Destructiveness, which forms so important an element in energy and force of character, depth of utterance and action is very small in the engraving. Constructiveness, manifestly a great power in the mental structure of the poet's composition, is also indicated as deficient. Acquisitiveness, too, is small, and vttShakspere was the only actor of his day, besides Alleyn, who retired with a competency, and who afterwards showed a prudent regard for the accumulation of property. As it is doubtful whether the engraver ever saw the living form of Shakspere, this feebleness in the breadth of the head would enable hiin to pourtray other marked features to the satisfaction of Jonson, Heminge, and Condell, and thus the imaginative faculties are represented as very prominent. Ideality, Wit, Wonder, Imitation, Comparison, and Causality are all very conspicuously indicated as very large. The perceptive faculties are scarcely so well marked as to accord with the power of keen observation and vast command in range of view in dealing with physical objects, so evident in his works. This may be the fault of the er graver. The relative deficiency is partially visible in the bust and the Warwick portrait, but does not exist in the Jansen, the Lumley, the Felton, or in the Chandos portrait in the National Portrait Gallery. It is still more trikingly different in ihis feature to the mask from the face of Shakspere.
Although these characteristics in the engraving do not all barmonise with what we know of Shakspere's career
and character, there is one feature that agrees well with Jonson's worship, Spenser's admiration, and Milton's praise ---the engraver has given a large endowment of Benevolence and Veneration in addition to all those faculties which delight in the gay, lively, and cheerful aspect of things; while the passions and propensities are only small, tending to that kind and benignant expression indicated by the endearing epithets, "Sweet Will;" "My gentle Shakspere." But then, with such a narrow brain there would be a lack of force to deal with those powerful and passionate dramas so terrible and terrifying in their life-like realities, where we see rage, jealousy, and revenge, bursting all the ties of affection, pride, and ambition, and using poniards and the deadly poison to gratify their vengeance all working with an intensity and power irresistibly illustrative of the breadth and energy of the poet.
It is, however, probable that the bard's full forehead would be graphically sketched or described by Jonson and the players as being large and high; the artist would mark. the feature, and indeed
“had a strife
With nature to outdo the life.” The engraver seems to have had some knowledge of the regulation of Henry VIII., who “excluded beards from the great table under penalty of paying double commons;" of the decree imposed in the first year of Elizabeth, when they were limited to a “fortnight's growth, under penalty of 38. 4d.” The few hairs under the bottom lip of Droeshout's engraving lead to the impression that the artist, not having the original before him, filled in the few signs of a beard in accordance with his own fancy, which in this feature makes the portrait unlike others of the poet and his contemporaries.
The physical proportions of the Droeshout figure harmonise better with a fine temperament and an intellectual head, than either the Stratford bust or portrait; and the same relative proportions are observable in the mezzotinto portrait by Wivell, the Lumley likeness, the Zetland, the Warwick, and especially so in the Jansen portraits.
The Stratford Portrait. This painting, considered by some persons as an interesting portrait of Shakspere and now preserved in the
birthplace of the poet, was formerly in the possession of Mr. Hunt, the town-clerk of Stratford, and belonged to his grandfather, a gentleman who took a prominent part in the affairs of the Garrick Jubilee in 1769 ; but there the pedi'gree ends. Although often seen in a lobby in Mr. Hunt's house, it had remained unnoticed and unknown, and passed scores of times by Mr. Halliwell without any idea of its importance, until it had been shown to Mr. Collins, a picture restorer, who was, in 1861, employed in cleaning and restoring the tints of the monumental effigy in the church. On removing a ferocious looking beard and moustache, there was discovered a portrait of Shakspere !a result that recalls the experiment made on Talma's Shakspere, painted on the bellows, which when cleaned proved to be an old lady in a cap and kerchief!
Mr. Hunt is too sincere and disinterested in his wish to do honour to the memory of Shakspere, to be concerned in any deception as to the picture, or to wish to deprecate any criticism upon it. Its position among the other portraits exhibited, and its preservation at the house in Henley Street, rather call for a closer examination than -would be otherwise accorded to it from the first glance at its glossy, glowing surfaces, and rotund outlines.
In examining its claims to be considered a portrait, we find it bears a strong resemblance in its general form to the bust in the church, both in the dress, the moustache, imperial, and the curls in the hair. The style, as well as the tints of the dress, are in every detail a copy of the bust; in fact, it is an old portrait with a new face, called a Shakspere--but no more like what Shakspere was than a Dutch dray-horse is to a racer, or a Solan goose to a skylark.
The full round globular forms which make the bust doubtful as a copy of Shakspere, are here exaggerated, and render the facial and cranial contour of the portrait inferior to the bust. The heads of all great masters of verse have
organs essential to the poet of imagination and fancy large, as seen in the portraits of Tasso, Dante, Ariosto, Chaucer, Spenser, Fenelon, Milton, Pope, Schiller, Wordsworth, and others; and yet Shakspere, greater than all, is here pourtrayed without the poetic organisation, either in form or condition. Wonder, Ideality, and Wit, are only very moderately indicated, and the stronger passions are marked with prominence, while there are no salient