Students from the University of Bristol curating an exhibition for the National Portrait Gallery in London have discovered a portrait of William Shakespeares only known patron, Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton, by an unknown artist. The depiction in oil on panel has remained hidden until now, having been painted over with a portrait of Southampton’s wife, Elizabeth Vernon. It was discovered during a routine X-ray prior to the installation of a show of portraits of Tudor women, which opened on April 29 at Montacute House in Somerset.
Southampton was a friend of both Queen Elizabeth I and Shakespeare, who dedicated Venus and Adonis (1593) to him. Historians at the London gallery compared the newly discovered likeness to previous depictions of Southampton in the collection, such as Daniel Mytenss lively oil painting on canvas from circa 1618. The sitter was “known at court for his flamboyant appearance, particularly his auburn hair, which he wore long,” claims the gallery.