See A Likeness?

The pictures below are:

1 on the left, Ferdinando Stanley, 5th Earl of Derby):a 19th century line engraving(?) from an oil painting at Knowsley Hall, Lancashire

2 on the right, a portrait miniature by Hilliard of an Unknown Man (1588), sometimes identified as Shakespeare.

Here they are in slight close-up

Although the black-and-white only gives an impression of the original oil painting, I still think the two faces are sufficiently similar for there to be a possibility that they are of the same man.

As far as I know, it was Dr Leslie Hotson who suggested the Hilliard miniature might be Shakespeare, alleging the symbolism of the picture indicates this in several ways. For one, I remember he pointed out that the hand emerging from a cloud to clasp the sitter's hand was a badge of Lord Strange: Shakespeare of course is thought in his early career to have worked for Lord Strange's Men. Dr Hotson suggested he perhaps wished to acknowledge his service by including a graceful reference to his noble patron.

It is worth noting though that in 1588 Ferdinando Stanley actually was Lord Strange. He would become Earl of Derby on his father's death in 1593.

I think it's more appropriate to suppose that the rather dandyish figure in the Hilliard miniature (whose hatband is, according to Hotson, a mass of amethysts) would be a wealthy man of noble rank. At this time Shakespeare was only commencing his career, had a wife and three children to support and his father was in debt. It doesn't seem feasible that he would have been paying six pounds to have a fashionable artist paint him in the sort of clothes that could have kept the family back in Stratford for a year.

On the other hand, the hair in the b&w picture of Ferdinando is much longer; also, in reproductions I've seen of the original oil painting - which unfortunately I can't find an image of on the web - the face looks much broader and stronger than it does in either the b&w (left) or the Hilliard (right). But then I would say that it's a characteristic of Hilliard's style, and perhaps even of the miniature form itself, to make sitters seem more delicate than they are. (Compare Hilliard's miniature of Sir Walter Ralegh with other portraits of him at the NPG).



Thanks to John Raithel, who runs a Derbyite website, we have a new picture of Ferdinando to consider - and sadly, it forces me to accept the Hilliard 'Unknown Man' above cannot be him. The hair in the Hilliard miniature is a coppery red, whereas in the picture John has found, Ferdinando's is clearly long and dark. Of course it's possible he varied his hair length from time to time, but it beggars belief he hennaed it as well. Another good theory bites the dust.

John found this picture of Ferdinando in Ian Wilson's book, Shakespeare: the evidence. I show only a detail of what is actually a full-page illustration of a very interesting portrait, which shows Ferdinando in a costume he apparently wore to an Accession Day tilt. His right hand rests on a plumed helmet and with his left he supports a lance. Over the his right shoulder appears a shield with many quarterings, that in the top left being the familiar Stanley arms, and beneath it a motto 'Sans changer ma verrite'.

So the Unknown Man remains unknown, though given the heraldic significance of the hand-from-a-cloud it still seems likely to me he is a connection of Lord Strange. But not Shakespeare, I think.