The Who2 Blog

Extreme Makeover: Historical Edition

What did William Shakespeare really look like? Most of us have seen the same image for the last five hundred years, from an engraving by Martin Droeshout, done about seven years after Shakespeare died.

It shows us a Shakespeare who was a big-headed, little fella, in plain garments and looking a tad shabby.

A recently unveiled portrait, thought to have been painted when Shakespeare was 46 years old, shows a much different sort, a refined looking chap in fancy Italian lace. One expert announces, “A lot of people have the wrong image of Shakespeare, and I’m pleased that the picture confirms my own feelings — this is the portrait of a gentleman.” (We like our writers to be gentlemen!)

This story from the Times Online has the details, including more information about other possible portraits. The “new” one is called the Cobbe portrait, and you can see it here.

The Janssen portrait, another well-known one, is here (thanks to the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C.).

The new face of Shakespeare reminds us of last month’s news about a new portrait of First Lady Martha Washington.

The painting, done by Michael Deas for a biography of Martha by Patricia Brady, shows a young Martha. Deas painted the portrait based on a computer-generated image by a forensic anthropologist.

Guess what? According to modern technology, Martha was a hottie before she married George. To skip the story and see her, go here.

Modern scholarship and technology are giving us a better idea of what historical figures really looked like, and so far the trend is good. Can we look forward to a future where all our historical figures are better looking?

A side note: Michael Deas also painted the Columbia Pictures logo when it was redone in 1993, using model Jennifer Joseph.

Labels: William Shakespeare, Martha Washington, George Washington, Jennifer Joseph.

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