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"Players, I loue yee and your qualitie,
"Wit, courage, good shape, good partes, are all good,
The reader will observe from the initials in the margin of the third of these wretched lines, that W. Shakspeare was here alluded to as the poet, and R. Burbage as the painter.
Yet notwithstanding this compliment to the higher excellencies of our author, it is almost certain that his resemblance owes its present safety to the shelter of a series of garrets and lumber-rooms, in which it had sculked till it found its way into the broker's shop from whence the discernment of a modern connoisseur so luckily redeemed it.
It may also be observed, that an excellent original of Ben Jonson was lately bought at an obscure auction by Mr. Ritson of Gray's Inn, and might once have been companion to the portrait of Shakspeare thus fortunately restored, after having been lost to the publick for a century and a half. They are, nevertheless, performances by very different artists. The face of Shakspeare was imitated by a delicate pencil, that of Jonson by a bolder hand. It is not designed, however, to appretiate the distinct value of these pictures; though it must be allowed (as several undoubted originals of old Ben
are all good,
As long as all these goods are no worse us'd;] So, in our author's Othello:
"Where virtue is, these are most virtuous."
are extant) that an authentick head of Shakspeare is the greater desideratum.
To conclude those who assume the liberty of despising prints when moderately executed, may be taught by this example the use and value of them; since to a coarse engraving by a second-rate artist, the publick is indebted for the recovery of the only genuine portrait of its favourite Shakspeare.
PRINTSELLER, CASTLE STREET, LEICESTER SQUARE,
FOR THE PUBLICATION OF
FROM THE PICTURE ALREADY DESCRIBED.
THESE Plates are to be engraved of an octavo size, and in the most finished style, by T. Trotter. A fac-simile of the hand-writing, date, &c. at the
9 There is reason to believe that Shakspeare's is the earliest known portrait of Droeshout's engraving. No wonder then that his performances twenty years after, are found to be executed with a somewhat superior degree of skill and accuracy. Yet still he was a poor engraver, and his productions are sought for more on account of their scarcity than their beauty. He seems indeed to have pleased so little in this country, that there are not above six or seven heads of his workmanship to be found.
back of the picture, will be given at the bottom of one of them.
They will be impressed both on octavo and quarto paper, so as to suit the best editions of the plays of Shakspeare.
Price of the pair to Subscribers 7s. 6d. No Proofs will be taken off. Non-subscribers 10s. 6d. The money to be paid at the time of subscribing, or at the delivery of the prints, which will be ready on December 1st, 1794.
Such portions of the hair, ruff, and drapery, as are wanting in the original picture, will be supplied from Droeshout's and Marshall's copies of it, in which the inanimate part of the composition may be safely followed. The mere outline in half of the plate that accompanies the finished one, will serve to ascertain how far these supplements have been adopted. To such scrupulous fidelity the publick (which has long been amused by inadequate or ideal likenesses of Shakspeare) has an undoubted claim; and should any fine ladies and gentlemen of the present age be disgusted at the stiff garb of our author, they may readily turn their eyes aside, and feast them on the more easy and elegant suit of clothes provided for him by his modern tailors, Messieurs Zoust, Vertue, Houbraken, and the humble imitators of their supposititious drapery.
The dress that Shakspeare wears in this ancient picture, might have been a theatrical one; as in the course of observation such another habit has not occurred. Marshall, when he engraved from the same portrait, materially altered its paraphernalia, and, perhaps, because he thought a stage garb did not stand so characteristically before a volume of Poems as before a collection of Plays; and yet it
must be confessed, that this change might have been introduced for no other reason than more effectually to discriminate his own production from that of his predecessor. On the same account also he might have reversed the figure.
N. B. The plates to be delivered in the order they are subscribed for; and subscriptions received at Mr. Richardson's, where the original portrait (by permission of Samuel Felton, Esq.) will be exhibited for the inspection of subscribers, together with the earlier engravings from it by Droeshout in 1623, and Marshall in 1640.1
Castle Street, Leicester Square,
Nov. 5, 1794.
It is common for an artist who engraves from a painting that has been already engraved, to place the work of his predecessor before him, that he may either catch some hints from it, or learn to avoid its errors. Marshall most certainly did so in the present instance; but while he corrected Droeshout's ruff, he has been led by him to desert his original in an unauthorised expansion of our author's forehead.