Page images

phrenological characteristics; but the eyes are blueishgrey. This seems to be an objection against the painting being from life, if the colours given to the bust at Stratford be true to nature, as they probably are, for they were painted under the direction of the poet's friends. As Jansen did not arrive in England till 1618, two years after the poet's death, he could not from personal observation know what colour the eyes of Shakspere were. But if he painted his beautiful portrait from the cast of the poet's face, then he would use the painter's license, and give the colour to the eyes to suit the temperament and complexion, which is generally blue in the xanthous or fair-haired sons of Scandinavia.

It is a curious fact that seven other portraits exhibited in this gallery had the aquiline physiognomy, making eleven out of thirty. That belonging to the Countess of Zetland has the same oval face, arched eyebrow, and sandy or light auburn hair; and when the mask taken from the face was placed near the portraits, it seemed to say in the words of the poet:

"Compare our faces, and be judge yourselves." And it is impossible to avoid the conclusion that the best of the Jansens has been painted either from this mask or one marvellously like it. In either case the difficulties which have hitherto hung around the portraits of Shakspere seem to vanish, and we begin to see him in his form and feature as he lived, finely organised in his mental combinations, with an ardent and highly impressionable nature and constitution, and all harmonious with his comely physical proportions, his handsome features, mental activity, and, above all, with a cerebral sensibility increased by the temperament of genius.

There is at Stratford an old painting of a group of figures representing a scene from Shakspere's Taming of the Shrew, which is said to have been painted by Thomas Hart, a nephew of Shakspere. In this group is the figure of Shakspere himself. The painting is in the possession of Mrs. James, who owns several other relics which belonged to the Hornbys, relations of the Harts. In this old picture Shakspere has the physical proportions and physiognomy indicated both by the niask and the Jansen portraits--a singular confirmation, for Thomas Hart, as scene painter, must have been familiar with Shakspere's general appearance, either from knowledge or tradition. He has pictured him more true, physically speaking, to what is possible for the player, the writer, and the man of incessant activity and industry, than the rotund effigy, or the plump picture called the Stratford portrait.

[merged small][graphic][merged small]

Accurate casts of the whole head are the best and most reliable biographic memorial portraitures of men of note; and ere long these will be held in higher estimation than the fading colours of the decaying canvass. Even the antique busts of the Greeks and Romans, with their quiet smile, or austere glance, yet truthful contours, awaken a vivid sympathy with the distant and forgotten members of the great family of man, and convey a fúller conviction of the identity of our species, and bring the past nearer to the present, than volumes of heavy historic records ; because

they appeal to sight and perception of form, proportion, and fitness in character.

It is rather remarkable, in connection with this Exhibition of Portraits of Shakspere in the town where he was born, lived, married, died, and lies buried, that a cast, taken it is said from his face after death, should, after 250 years' absence, be exhibited side by side with portraits by artists of various periods. The test was a severe one, but highly important in its results, if we are enabled thereby to show that certain popular portraits are not likenesses of Shakspere, while others have a strong if not an undeniable claim to be considered true and genuine portraits of the poet.

The cast from the face was brought to light about 15 years ago. It is alleged to have been originally purchased by a German nobleman attached to the Court of James I., and preserved as a relic of Shakspere in the family of Kesselstadt, until the last of the race, Count von Kesselstadt, a canon of Cologne Cathedral, died in 1843, when his collection of curiosities was sold and dispersed. Dr. Becker purchased the cast and the miniature copy of it, and brought both to this country. On leaving England for Australia, he left the mask in the care of Professor Owen, at the British Museum.

Becker was

an enthusiastic botanist, who, joining the expedition under Burke, perished with him on the return from their Overland journeyings and discoveries. On the back of the mask is the inscription—"A.D. 1616.” The miniature which has accompanied it has a wreath around the head intimating that it is the likeness of a poet. Hain Friswell justly observes that “the cast bears some resemblance to the more refined portraits of the poet;" and I propose to direct attention to a few of these points of agreement or difference. There is 110 ground for the statement of those who think this mask furnished the tomb-maker with his model for the monument in the church. It is utterly impossible; for in nearly every facial and cranial outline where a comparison can be instituted, they are dissimilar.

When I first saw the mask lying flat under its glass cover, I was doubtful of its genuineness, because it was at variance with the ethnic type of the Warwickshire physiognomy indicated by the Stratford monument, and to à considerabie extent belonging to a majority of the people in the district. I was allowed to raise the mask to a position level with the line of sight, and the face and forehead then presented much more harmonious proportionsvery remarkable in their combinations. The mask has strongly marked, yet regular and finely formed features. The brain is the most prominent over the lower part of the forehead, and at the sides. It is well and harmoniously developed in the region of the perceptive faculties, which are very large, as indicated by the sketch of the profile of the cast, and differs in this respect from the Bust, the Droeshout engraving, and the Warwick portraits, but singularly agrees with most of the facial and cranial outlines of the Jansen portrait. On the mask the hairs of the head, eyelashes, moustache, and beard, still adhere to the plaster, and are a reddish-brown or auburn colour, corresponding with the portraits by Jansen, and in some measure with that of the Stratford bust. It was objected that the hairs could scarcely be so repeated on a cast. This has repeatedly occurred in my own experience, and is very easily explained. On taking a mould of the head of Dr. King, at the request of the late Lady Noel Byron, I found several hairs adhered to the plaster, and reappeared on the cast, and so also in other cases. These hairs in the cast of Shakspere's face are an additional corroboration of the possible temperament and complexion, and, if genuine, an argument against the truth of the Chandos. Both cannot be genuine.

It was the custom in those days to take faithful impressions of the faces of the nobility, and probably in some



account for the marked and characteristic features on many of the monuments of the period, as seen in those of Sir Thomas Lucy and his family in Charlecote Church. The cast in the British Museun was probably taken from a mould of wax, and certainly by an experienced artist; which accounts for the sharpness of the work, the clearness of the outlines, the flesh-like appearance of the surface, and the undisturbed hairs imbedded in the moustache, and tuft on the chin. There are markings of the workman's tool on the surface of parts of the moustache and beard; but there has been no mould taken from this cast, as is evident from the condition it presents, nor is it very likely that another cast was taken out of the “waste” mould. It has been suggested that the artist might work from this as a model, and then sell it. The

cases in

monument at Stratford could not possibly, as previously stated, be made from this cast, nor did it offer any suggestion to the tomb-maker. The body had so far wasted, that the cartilages or nasal bones have been marked in the mould, and the eyes are sunken.

The mask has a mournful aspect, and sensitive persons are affected by its apparent reality. It is said that Fanny Kemble, on looking at it, burst into tears. It is utterly destitute of the jovial physiognomy of the Stratford bust, and it bears the impress of one who was gifted with a most extraordinary range of perceptive observation and ready memory, great facility of expression, varied power of enjoyment, much sensibility, and great depth of feeling. On the upper part of the forehead, near to the left side of the organ of Comparison, there is, I observed, a slight deprèssion, as if produced by a blow inflicting a wound on the skull at some early period of life.

It has the appearance likely to be presented after receiving a righthanded blow from a stick or falling body. Those of a lively fancy may recall the Fulbrooke deer-stealing, and the gamekeeper of Sir Thomas Lucy, as an explanation. I simply direct the attention of the cúrious to the cast in the British Museum in confirmation of the statement. Presuming that the whole head was organised in proportion to the frontal portion indicated in the mask, it would be a little above average, but not of the largest size and the favourable combinations of the observing powers, and sensibility would give extraordinary facility and executive skill; and if not the cast from Shakspere, it is from one who could have succeeded in any department of practical art, science, mechanics, music, painting, sculpture, or literature.

Phrenology is a severe test to apply, and the mask and the Jansen portraits pass the ordeal well and satisfactorily, while all the others fail in some essential feature or combination.

The sides of the head in the cast are well developed, and are large. The perceptive faculties are still more decidedly marked in the size of their organs: thus Form, Size, Colour, Weight, Locality, Number, Order, Eventuality,

Time, and Constructiveness, are all very large; and Ideality, Wit, Language, Comparison, Causality, Benevolence, Veneration, Secretiveness, and Acquisitiveness, are large; while

« PreviousContinue »