A portrait said to be the only signed and dated image of William Shakespeare created during his lifetime has gone on sale for more than £10 million and is on display in London.
The owner, who wishes to remain anonymous, offers the piece for sale by private contract without auction.
It is the work of Robert Peake, court painter to King James Iand is signed and dated 1608. The artwork went on display Wednesday at the Grosvenor House hotel in west London.
Before 1975, the image hung in the library of a stately home in the north of England, once the home of the Danby family. Since then it has been privately owned.
Those behind its sale claim that the connections between Shakespeare and Peake are “extensive” and that the artist was regularly commissioned to paint the portraits of high-ranking members of the Jacobean court and society.
They also noted that he was commissioned by the Office of the Revelswho supervised the presentation of plays, and worked at the Clerkenwell, London premises, where some of Shakespeare’s plays were rehearsed.
However, only two paintings by Shakespeare, both posthumous, are recognized as validly portraying him: the engraving appearing on the title page of the first folio, published in 1623, and the sculpture on his funerary monument in Stratford-upon-Avon. Shakespeare died in 1616, at the age of 52.
Art expert Duncan Phillips, who researched the work before the sale, said: “There is more evidence for this portrait of Shakespeare than any other known painting of the playwright.
“It is a monogrammed and dated work by a portrait artist of serious status with connections to the artist who produced the image for the First Folio.
“The picture has survived the last 400 years almost untouched by wear and tear thanks to its ownership by a family of Shakespearean enthusiasts who hung it in their library.”
However, Shakespearean expert Michael Dobson told the Daily Mail that suggestions that the painting is of the Bard are “wishful thinking”.
There have been numerous claims and counter-claims about the legitimacy of the playwright’s paintings in previous years.
In 2015, botanist and historian Mark Griffiths said that he had discovered what he believed to be the only authentic portrait of Shakespeare made in his lifetime.
He argued that an engraving on the cover of a 400-year-old book, The Herball or General Historie of Plantes, contains four identifiable figures, one of whom was the 33-year-old Bard.
In 2009, a portrait that was exhibited in Stratford-upon-Avon was at the center of controversy.
Sir Roy Strong, former director of the Victoria and Albert Museum and the National Portrait Gallery, suggested that the painting was by Shakespeare. they were “cod blows”.
The organizers of the Shakespeare Found exhibition insisted that at the time the painting was of England’s greatest literary hero.
In 2005, experts at the National Portrait Gallery in London concluded that The Flower Portrait was a forgery dating from the early 19th century.
Historians disagreed about the origins of the painting of the Bard bearing the inscription 1609.