clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:


A famous image of William Shakespeare - the engraving on the first edition of his collected works - was based on a portrait of Queen Elizabeth I, a computer expert has con-cluded.

The engraver, Martin Droeshout, may have used the queen as a model to acknowledge her patronage of the theater and perhaps her inspiration to Shakespeare, says computer artist Lillian Schwartz.Schwartz, who suggested in 1986 that Leonardo da Vinci was his own model for the Mona Lisa, used computers to compare the portrait on the 1623 First Folio edition of Shakespeare's collected works with other images of Shakespeare and other Elizabethan notables.

The photo matched the 1588 portrait of Elizabeth by her staff artist, George Gower, she said. She said the eyes, cheeks and nose match, and the distance between the eyes is the same.

"With this, it's so perfect that there's no doubt," said Schwartz. "You could take the two portraits, scale them to the same size on a Xerox machine and lay them on top of each other and see for yourself."

Schwartz attributed the differences - beard, mustache, jaw lines and forehead - to an attempt by Droeshout to add masculine features for Shakespeare.