William Shakespeare

Etched and published by Samuel Ireland British
Sitter William Shakespeare British

Not on view

This etching reproduces a supposed self-portrait sketch by Shakespeare actually created by William Henry Ireland during a famous forgery scandal of the 1790s. Ireland faked a cache of letters, documents, and drafts of plays calculated to shed light on the Bard's life and beliefs, and claimed to have found them in an old trunk. Taken in by his son, Samuel Ireland published "Miscellaneous Papers and Legal Instruments Printed Under the Hand and Seal of William Shakespeare" (1796), using the present image as an illustration. It was said to have been inserted in a letter and there described as a "whysycalle conceyte." The Shakespeare authority Edmond Malone soon debunked Ireland's claims and described the portrait as "most truly whimsical, being a miserable drawing of our poet done by himself with a pen, from Martin Droeshout's print of him engraved seven years after his death" (see 17.3.756-1108 for the latter).

William Shakespeare, Etched and published by Samuel Ireland (British, active from ca. 1760, died London 1800), Etching

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