Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Overbury Overdrive, pt. 2: The Face

Before getting into the new Cobbe (misattributed "Shakespeare") portrait in detail, I wanted to make sure that it is abundantly clear just how precise the match is between the Cobbe's face and undisputed images of the face of Sir Thomas Overbury.

Here is why it matters: The "new Shakespeare portrait" is no such thing. It is a big snafu-in-the-waiting that could also have significant implications beyond this little embarrassment for Stratfordian scholarship. For the nonce, I'm just going to lay that claim out there, with the promise that I'll be following up on these bigger issues in subsequent posts.

Below I've attached a Photoshop exercise that I'll explain after the jump. (Click on the image to enlarge.)

The image here is a gradual fade-in of the Cobbe "Shakespeare" over an engraving of the Jacobean poet Sir Thomas Overbury. As noted in the previous post, it should be as plain as can be that each of these two images is portraying the same face.

Incidentally, I reversed the engraving of Overbury. Note that that would have been the way the image appeared when being struck by the engraver, one Renold Elstrake. The dating of the Overbury engraving is c. 1616, which would put it after Overbury's scandalous death. So presumably Elstrake had to use another Overbury portrait as his source. As the above portrait overlay makes plain, the resemblance between the two faces is close -- so close that I think a good case can be made that the "Cobbe" portrait may have even served as the original for the Overbury engraving.

And, to bring in a third witness here, to the right is another image of Overbury -- revealing the same face as the Overbury engraving and as the face in the Cobbe portrait.

Now just to be clear: I'm not talking about the authorship theory in these postings about the Cobbe portrait. The story, the theory, the whole enchilada of "Shakespeare" By Another Name -- Edward de Vere as "Shakespeare" -- remains.

I just think this "Cobbe portrait" business is a mixed-up jumble of Stratfordian wishful thinking foisted upon an undeniable portrait of Thomas Overbury.

There may well, on the other hand, still be a different kind of "Shakespeare" connection to the Cobbe portrait.

And that's a mouse-trap for another day.

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Karim said...

It's not really "Stratfordian wishful thinking" for two reasons, Mark:

1. It's just news-outlets selling news. "Shakespeare" is much more like to grab the attention of a casual reader than "DeVere", who isn't well-known at all.

2. Stratfordians aren't wishfully thinking anything. They're as convinced they've got the real writer as much as you are.

I'd say you were right on the portrait. It's circumstantial evidence and not ultimate proof, but it's good enough for me.

Reading your book, enjoying it; haven't made-up my mind, and I find a lot of the evidence somewhat shaky (and in some cases disproven by some advanced math - yay math!), but there's just too many coincidences for me to take the standardised view completely. Good work, all in all!


Mark said...

Hey, Crumbs. (Any relation to R. ?)

The Stratfordian wishful thinking I refer to here exists, in a sense, in a much broader arena than just this particular portrait. The problem orthodox scholars have -- and have had for centuries -- is they're sitting atop a gigantic wad of nothing. Cf. my posting on Wednesday for an example of the kind of crazy non-logic that they're often driven to to explain why the most thoroughly researched life in modern Western history still offers up such embarrassingly little biographical detail.

I don't doubt but that many Stratfordians would love to be able to claim a portrait as handsome and lifelike as the Cobbe as the "new" face -- their new visual brand as it were -- to accompany the Shakespeare name.

Too bad the face is Overbury's.

Doc Stritmatter said...


My take on this is different than yours. I don't think it's a portrait of Overbury at all. To me the faces are quite distinctly different.