Edmund Spenser (‘William Shakespeare’)
- 17th c.
- Object type
- mezzotint, oil
- paper, canvas
- 63,0 x 50,5 cm
- Acquisition date
- The Palace on the Isle - Portrait Room, ground floor
- Marks and inscriptions
- red number 1831 of the Stanisław August collection, bottom right
- Place of Origin
- United Kingdom (Europe)
- The Royal Łazienki
- Museum number
- ŁKr 937
The painting was given to the Stanisław August collection by the king’s brother, the Primate Michał Poniatowski, … together with a portrait of Isaac Newton. … (see cat. no. 104)
Acquired as a likeness of William Shakespeare (English inscription on the back), it is recorded as such in the catalogues of the Stanisław August collection and also in the literature to date.
The identity of the sitter had thus far not been questioned, what is surprising is that it does not resemble any of the several printed and painted likenesses traditionally associated with Shakespeare … , but is an example of an image, popular in the 18th century, considered to be the likeness of another eminent English poet of the Elizabethan era, Edmund Spenser (c. 1552–99), author of … the famous allegorical poem The Faerie Queene (1590–96).
This type of likeness of Edmund Spenser (bust-length, wearing a wams with a characteristic pattern, with locks of hair pulled back from his forehead) is known from various printed and painted versions. None of them was made before the second half of the 17th century, and the majority are 18th
century. … Scholars agree that the images of Spenser of a ‘Chesterfield’ type (as they are called in English literature) are entirely imaginary.
The ‘Chesterfield’ type likeness was also repeated in a coloured mezzotint by the Dutch engraver, Jacob Christoph Le Blon … , and it is this version which is the closest in every respect to the Łazienki portrait ... .
It can be assumed with a great degree of certainty that the Łazienki portrait of Spenser is in fact a painted—or more strictly-speaking, an overpainted—mezzotint by Le Blon. … [D. Juszczak, H. Małachowicz, The Stanisław August Collection of Paintings at the Royal Łazienki. Catalogue, Royal Łazienki Museum, Warsaw 2016, no. 60, pp. 233–236.]