Has Bard’s original portrait been replaced by a fake?

November 14th, 2007 - 2:49 am ICT by admin  
Hildegard Hammerschmidt-Hummel said that she found that the famous portrait that has been in the company since 1892 was not the original painting when she examined the work between 1996-2005.

The Flower is known to be one of the few reliable likenesses of the playwright.

In 2005, the portrait was dismissed as a 19th century replacement for the original because it had chrome yellow, a colour that came into use only after1814.

“Where is the priceless 400-year-old original Flower portrait?” Times Online quoted the professor, who lectures in English literature at the University of Mainz, as saying.

Hammerschmidt-Hummel said that she is supporting her claims on the test that she conducted in 1996 when she saw the original for the last time, and that the one she saw this January wasn’t the original.

She called for scientific tests from Reinhardt Altmann, an expert at the German Federal Bureau of Criminal Investigation.

“Altmann concluded that the picture provided in 2002 must be a copy. Professor Wolf-gang Speyer, of the University of Salz-burg and an expert on Old Masters, confirmed the differences between the two pictures,” she said.

“It had already been described in these terms by British experts at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries, among them the directors of the National Portrait Gallery.

” (The edges of the portrait examined in January were) solid, showing no signs of wormwood damage . . . [and] the peripheral areas, which in the original painting are brittle and have been broken or chipped away in places, exhibit no such damage in the portrait inspected in the RSC depository,” she said.

An X-ray examination in 1966 by the Courtauld Institute of Art found that beneath the portrait was a painting of a Madonna and the Christ child from the late 15th or early 16th century

“In the older X-ray, the outline of the right-hand side of the Madonna’s head runs through Shakespeare’s left eye, close to the nasal side of the pupil. The new X-ray mistakenly has what appears to be the bridge of the Madonna’s nose bisecting Shakespeare’s left eye. The conclusion must be that the Madonna beneath the portrait is a poor imitation and it follows that the portrait is not genuine,” Professor Hammerschmidt-Hummel said.

However, both the RSC and the portrait gallery have refuted the claims.

“The idea that this picture has been substituted for a different portrait between 1996 and 2005 is plainly nonsensical . . . Any perceived differences between photographs are likely to be caused by differences in lighting conditions,” Dr Tarnya Cooper, the portrait gallery’s 16th century curator, said.

Stanley Wells, Britain’s foremost Shakespeare scholar, called Professor Hammerschmidt-Hummel’s claims ‘disgraceful”.

“She knows her way round the archives, but she barks continually up the wrong tree. At least she’s not saying Shakespeare didn’t write Shakespeare,” he said.

Professor Hammerschmidt-Hummel’s findings in The Life and Times of William Shakespeare will be published on November 5. (ANI)

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