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William Shakespeare
painting

Brown, Ford Madox
Europe, United Kingdom, England
1849

1900.16

oil paint
135.6 x 87.5 cm

More Details

William Shakespeare 1849
Ford Madox Brown 1821-1893
Oil on canvas

Brown was attracted to literary subjects,
in this case the playwright William Shakespeare.

As there was no known true likeness of Shakespeare,
Brown drew on various sources
to create as authentic a portrait as possible.
He also used a live model to give the picture immediacy.

On the desk is Shakespeare's own source-material,
including books by Boccaccio and Chaucer.

The tapestry has a figure blowing a trumpet
and holding a laurel wreath to symbolise fame.
Within the wreath is a coat of arms
containing a spear as a pun on his name.

The frame, designed by Brown,
echoes the laurel leaves of fame
combining them with English oak leaves,
and with masks of comedy and tragedy.