William Shakespeare

(1564 – 1616)

The most celebrated English playwright and poet and one of the great writers of all time, William Shakespeare was highly esteemed during his lifetime. This is the only portrait of him that has any claim to have been painted from life, although there is no definitive evidence. It is thought to be by a painter called John Taylor, who was an important member of the Painter-Stainers' Company. The portrait is known as the “Chandos portrait,” after a previous owner. In 1856 it became the first portrait to be acquired by the British National Portrait Gallery.

Attributed to John Taylor (died 1651)
Oil on canvas, circa 1600 – 1610
National Portrait Gallery, London
© National Portrait Gallery, London