2014年3月1日 星期六

the Bard's books;Boydell Shakespeare Gallery ;Shakespeare: An Illustrated Dictionary, OUP 1978/85, by Stanley Wells,

We can't capture Shakespeare

A new 'authentic' portrait of the Bard is causing a stir – but it tells us nothing about what made him unique
In 1623 the first collected edition of William Shakespeare's works was published by his old colleagues in the King's Men theatre company. They paid their lately deceased fellow actor, manager, and author the compliment of transcribing all his plays from actors' working notes, arranging them as Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies – an edition that is still the basis of Shakespeare's fame.
And naturally, at the beginning of this big book, the First Folio, they placed Shakespeare's portrait. The engraving shows a man with a tall bald forehead and a long face framed by a ruff collar. His friend and rival Ben Jonson wrote a verse to commend the likeness – "the graver had a strife/ With Nature to outdo the life". And yet, Jonson raises a question about the very value of a visual image of a verbal genius:

O, could he but have drawn his wit
As well in brass as he hath hit
His face, the print would then surpass
All that was ever writ in brass.
The engraving of Shakespeare's face, points out Jonson, cannot capture his "wit"; it's just an inert picture that does no justice to what made Shakespeare unique, which was the lively play of his language, in speech and on the page.
Jonson's caution has never been heeded. From 1623 to today, people have sought Shakespeare's image. It's become a kind of obsession. Now a new Shakespeare portrait has been hailed as the most authentic of all; if so, it will eclipse the recent agreement that the "Chandos" portrait in the National Portrait Gallery is the real thing, the true image of the bard. Finding Shakespeare's face is the theme of books and exhibitions as we try to flesh out this most elusive of authors.
So little is known of Shakespeare the man; just bare documentary facts but nothing personal, not even a single letter from his hand. Contrast this with Michelangelo, who by the time he died in 1564, the year of Shakespeare's birth, had seen two biographies of himself into print. Contrast it too with Ben Jonson, who for all his scepticism about portraiture posed for a vivid painting by Abraham van Blyenberch, today in the National Portrait Gallery.
Shakespeare is so obscure that some still deny his very authorship, so mysterious that weaving a biography from the resistant sources is a fascinating scholarly game in books by Stephen Greenblatt, Charles Nicholl and Jonathan Bate. There have in fact been more biographies of Shakespeare this century than of any comparable figure, which like the rage for portraits of him reflects our desire to individualise a writer who so resists our curiosity.
Perhaps we want to pin him down because of the eerie way his plays dramatise every voice, every perspective. Like a Cubist painter, Shakespeare seems to see his world with mind-bending relativism. Wouldn't it be lovely to capture this Proteus, to hold him to a single form. But we can't, and the newly identified, supposedly truly authentic, portrait of him won't do that any more finally that there can be a "final" interpretation of Hamlet.

Put a face on Shakespeare? You may as well try to personify the English language. Ben Jonson reaches a disconcerting conclusion in the First Folio. Yes, he says, it would be marvellous if the engraver could have portrayed Shakespeare's wit –

But since he cannot, reader, look
Not on his picture, but his book.
Good advice.

A true Shakespeare 'portrait'? Surely not...

On the evidence adduced so far, the idea that the Cobbe portrait is a lifetime portrait of Shakespeare seems optimistic
Newly Identified portrait of William Shakespeare
The Cobbe portrait, unveiled yesterday in London. Photograph: Oli Scarff/Getty Images
On the evidence adumbrated so far, it seems to me to be to be highly unlikely that the Cobbe portrait is a true lifetime portrait of William Shakespeare, as widely reported today.
I'm assuming there's something that Professor Stanley Wells, who has led the charge towards the identification, has something else up his sleeve – because so far the case seems rather unconvincing.
The story is that the owner of the Cobbe portrait attended the recent Searching for Shakespeare exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, curated by Tarnya Cooper in 2006.
At that exhibition he saw a picture at one time thought to have been of Shakespeare, known as the Janssen portrait, that resembled his own "Cobbe" portrait, and which he felt was probably copied from his own painting.
But even if he is right, and the Janssen portrait was copied from his own, surely that just doesn't work. The Janssen portrait was painted c1610 – but doctored by the 1770s to make it look like Shakespeare. As the Folger Shakespeare Library points out (the owner of the Janssen portrait): "This makes it the earliest proven example of a genuine portrait altered to look like Shakespeare." In other words, unless there is new evidence about the sitter, it is the portrait of some random Jacobean chap which was later altered so it could be passed off as a portrait of Shakespeare (the look broadly based on the 1623 Martin Droeshout engraving, which we know from contemporary evidence to have been a good likeness, whether made posthumously or not).
What we are essentially left with, as far as I can tell, is a portrait of just about the right period of a fellow with roughly the right kind of hairdo (though to my mind looking insufficiently old and bald given the two true likenesses we know about, which are the Droeshout engraving and the Shakespeare memorial bust in Stratford parish church).
Prof Wells also talks about the fact that some of the pictures in the Cobbe collection were handed down by the family of the Earl of Southampton, Shakespeare's patron. But there is no documentary evidence that the "Shakespeare" portrait is one of those works.
Tempting as it is with portraits of this period to go for optimistic identifications, surely there has to be a bit more evidence on the table than this?

 **** Shakespeare: An Illustrated Dictionary, OUP 1978/85, by  Stanley Wells,

 Stanley Wells, Emeritus Professor and Chairman of The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust

現在Wikipedia  對於Boydell Shakespeare Gallery 的介紹,相對豐富得多了。 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boydell_Shakespeare_Gallery

Oil painting representing Puck as a baby with pointed ears and curly blonde hair sitting on an enormous mushroom in a forest. He holds a small posy and grins mischievously.
Joshua Reynolds' Puck (1789), painted for Boydell's Shakespeare Gallery, is modelled after Parmigianino's Madonna with St. Zachary, the Magdalen, and St. John[1]
The Boydell Shakespeare Gallery in London, England, was the first stage of a three-part project initiated in November 1786 by engraver and publisher John Boydell in an effort to foster a school of British history painting. In addition to the establishment of the gallery, Boydell planned to produce an illustrated edition of William Shakespeare's plays and a folio of prints based upon a series of paintings by different contemporary painters. During the 1790s the London gallery that showed the original paintings emerged as the project's most popular element.
The works of William Shakespeare enjoyed a renewed popularity in 18th-century Britain. Several new editions of his works were published, his plays were revived in the theatre and numerous works of art were created illustrating the plays and specific productions of them. Capitalising on this interest, Boydell decided to publish a grand illustrated edition of Shakespeare's plays that would showcase the talents of British painters and engravers. He chose the noted scholar and Shakespeare editor George Steevens to oversee the edition, which was released between 1791 and 1803.
The press reported weekly on the building of Boydell's gallery, designed by George Dance the Younger, on a site in Pall Mall. Boydell commissioned works from famous painters of the day, such as Joshua Reynolds, and the folio of engravings proved the enterprise's most lasting legacy. However, the long delay in publishing the prints and the illustrated edition prompted criticism. Because they were hurried, and many illustrations had to be done by lesser artists, the final products of Boydell's venture were judged to be disappointing. The project caused the Boydell firm to become insolvent, and they were forced to sell the gallery at a lottery.