Monday, July 03, 2006

Searching for Shakespeare

22 JUNE — 17 SEPTEMBER, 2006
Yale University

In 1856, the first portrait presented to the newly founded National Portrait Gallery in London was a work believed to portray William Shakespeare. How England's most famous poet and playwright actually looked had been a matter of national interest for the previous two hundred years. Yet whether this picture, known as the Chandos portrait, accurately represents Shakespeare's face is still a matter of debate, since there is no portrait of him that is known to have been created in his lifetime. The exhibition will examine the representation of Shakespeare and, for the first time in this country, bring together the five other contender portraits purporting to represent him. Originating at the National Portrait Gallery in London
(on the occasion of that institution's sesquicentennial in 2006), the display will present the results of the latest technical analysis and research on several of these pictures, casting new light on the search for Shakespeare's authentic appearance.

Although Shakespeare's life can only be reconstructed partially, the exhibition will examine the playwright as his contemporaries knew him by looking closely at his own circle. The exhibition will place Shakespeare in the broader context of the Elizabethan stage through the display of an extraordinary range of contemporary works of art and historical artifacts, including original sixteenth- and seventeenth-century costumes. Manuscript and printed material related to Elizabethan performance and stagecraft and early printed editions of Shakespeares plays and poetry will be featured, along with portraits
of actors, patrons, and other playwrights. This extraordinary body of material, much never before seen in this country, will allow the public a unique opportunity to see virtually all the extant material relating to Shakespeare's life and his work.

The exhibition includes nearly 150 works on loan from the National Portrait Gallery, the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, the Royal Shakespeare Company, the Museum of London, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Folger Shakespeare Library, and a number of private collections, with fifty additional works selected from collections at Yale. It will be accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue.


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