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After we published our episode here on That Shakespeare Life about the Duncan portrait of William Shakespeare, I received an email from Steve Wadlow, telling me about the history of a portrait that had been hanging in his family home for years that a visiting Shakespeare scholar indicated might be William Shakespeare. That scholar suggested Steve look into the provenance of the painting further. With no prior experience in Shakespeare history, or indeed the art world, Steve dove headlong into making connections that could help him unravel the mystery about where this painting had come from originally and exactly who was the person in the picture. Here today to tell us what he found out and whether or not this painting is of William Shakespeare is our guest, and newly minted art historian, Steve Wadlow.  

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Steve Wadlow is the son of Peter Wadlow, who owned an antique, picture framing/restoration business in Harrow, London from the 1960s through to the 1990s and dabbled in small-scale art dealing, before an Alzheimer’s diagnosis closed his art career. Steve had picked up his father’s art collection and with the help of a team of scholars, professional art historians, and one intrepid documentary producer who has signed on to document the journey, they are on a quest to discover whether the Wadlow portrait is indeed a painting of Shakespeare. You can learn more about their journey and connect with Steve at the links to their website in the show notes for today’s episode.  

I’ll be asking Steve Wadlow about:

  • When did you first discover the painting in your father’s house might be worth investigating further?
  • It was really surprising to me that none of your family—not you, not your parents who owned this portrait—had any interest in Shakespeare personally, so when you decided to investigate, where did you turn first for more information?  
  • How do you know the painting is an original and not a copy, since the period in which this painting was done—the 16th or 17th century, it was quite common for a professional artist to duplicate the work of someone else for distribution? So, in essence, it could be an original painting that was done deliberately to copy another, so how do you sort out those specifics?  
  • …and more!

Katherine Duncan Jones — Portraits of Shakespeare

Searching for Shakespeare by Tarnya Cooper with Stanley Wells and James Shaprio

Additional Related Resources Cassidy Thought You Might Enjoy:

Portraits of Shakespeare by James Boaden

A Study of Shakespeare’s Portraits by William Page

The Wadlow Portrait. The portrait was given this name by Simon Stirling who was one of the first people to write an article about it. | Read more on the portrait at Steve Wadlow’s website.

Only Portrait of Shakespeare Done While He Was Alive

Duncan Phillips is the art gallery owner who recently displayed the Danby Portrait, and he joins us to share about the history of the Danby Portrait, it’s connections to Shakespeare, and the recent evidence that’s been uncovered that suggests the portrait is not only of William Shakespeare, but that it was likely painted from life.

Lost Aldrovandi Portrait Found

One antiques dealer in Norfolk uncovers a lost painting from the 1590s when he decided to xray a seemingly insignificant painting from his collection.

Rachel Danker, from the Folger Shakespeare Library, helps us unpack the portraits of William Shakespeare to explain just what was the role of pictures and paintings of individuals in the bard’s lifetime, and what can we learn about Shakespeare from these historic paintings.

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That’s it for this week! Thank you for listening. I’m Cassidy Cash, and I hope you learn something new about the bard. I’ll see you next time!