New identification of old portrait--it's Shakespeare

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LONDON — The Bard, or not the Bard? That is the question posed by Monday's unveiling of a centuries-old portrait of a dark-eyed, handsome man in Elizabethan finery.

Experts say it is the only portrait of William Shakespeare painted during his lifetime — in effect, the sole source of our knowledge of what the great man looked like.

But they can't be certain. In the shifting sands of Shakespeare scholarship, where even the authorship of the plays is sometimes disputed, nothing is written in stone.

"We're 90 percent sure that it's Shakespeare," said Paul Edmondson, director of learning at the Shakespeare Learning Trust, which plans to exhibit the portrait in Stratford-on-Avon. "You'll never be entirely certain. There will always be voices of dissent."

Incredibly, the portrait has been in private hands for several centuries but the owners — the Cobbe family — had no idea the man in the painting was responsible for so many enduring masterpieces.

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