X-rays uncover 'hidden portrait' of Shakespeare's patron

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A rare portrait, believed to be of Henry Wriothesley, the third Earl of Southampton--Shakespeare's only known patron--has been discovered using X-ray technology. Art historians from Bristol University have found what they believe is a picture of Wriothesley that was painted over in the 16th Century. To the naked eye, it is a portrait of his wife, Elizabeth Vernon, Queen Elizabeth I's maid of honour..

The hidden picture was uncovered when the work was X-rayed in preparation for an exhibition at Montacute House in Somerset, UK. Radiography revealed that underneath the oil portrait was a ghostly male figure whom experts believe is Vernon's husband, Southampton, Shakespeare's only known patron. There are no plans to chip away the portrait of Southampton's wife to uncover him properly.

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