An Elizabethan portrait thought by many to depict the young William Shakespeare is not the bard, experts at the National Portrait Gallery have concluded. The "Grafton portrait," which shows a dark-haired, high-browed young man in a rich scarlet jacket, has appeared on the cover of books about the writer. Gallery experts dated the painting to 1588, when Shakespeare was 24, the age given by an inscription on the picture for its subject.
But they said Friday that there was no other evidence to suggest the portrait, owned by the University of Manchester, was of the playwright. Curator Tarnya Cooper said it was unlikely Shakespeare, then a young actor and writer, would have been able to afford a garment as expensive as the one in the painting.
"We believe that Shakespeare left Stratford-upon-Avon following the birth of twins in 1585," Cooper said. "One possibility is that he joined a traveling theater troupe and it is very unlikely that in 1588, Shakespeare would have been able to afford a costume of this type."
Cooper said the painting had helped nurture the image of a sensitive, brooding young poet popularized by the film "Shakespeare in Love", "a beautiful young man with a sensitive and passionate face, of a character with an incredible emotional range."
Painted in oils on an oak panel by an anonymous artist, the Grafton Portrait is named for one of the Dukes of Grafton, who is said to have owned it.
The gallery is restoring and authenticating three portraits purportedly of Shakespeare in preparation for its "Searching for Shakespeare" exhibition next year.
Using x-rays, ultraviolet light, microphotography and paint sampling tests, scholars at the gallery concluded in April that one of the best-known Shakespeare portraits, the so-called Flower portrait owned by the Royal Shakespeare Company, was also a fake. Scientific analysis revealed the painting dated from the 19th century.
Next, experts will examine the Chandos portrait, which is in the gallery's own collection, reports the AP I.L.