"Painting, sir... is a mystery... "
Measure for Measure, Act 4, Scene 2
The 17th-century painting purported to be of William Shakespeare, first disclosed by the Globe and Mail on May 11, 2001, will be presented to the public at the AGO from June 21 to September 23, 2001. This scholarly display will make the Art Gallery of Ontario a very exciting and stimulating place to be this summer.
The publication of this portrait has sparked widespread interest and commentary. The painting belongs to an Ontario resident, whose family has owned it for twelve generations and who have always believed it to represent Shakespeare. The work bears the date 1603, and if the purported identification of the sitter is to be accepted, this would be the only portrait of the Bard to have been painted in his lifetime.
"We saw this as an opportunity to involve the Canadian public in this great international
discussion," says Matthew Teitelbaum, Director of the AGO. "By placing this portrait on exhibition, we are expanding the ongoing dialogue about the painting and its interpretation."
Over the past several years, the Canadian Conservation Institute in Ottawa has conducted a series of tests on the painting, and the resulting scientific evidence corroborates the portrait''s 17th-century date. The AGO installation will present the results of this research, and will encourage discussion about the work by the presentation of all sides of the various issues raised by the painting and the identification of its subject.
Christina Corsiglia, Curator of European Art at the AGO, looks forward to fostering continued debate about the painting. "We are delighted to be able to present this thought-provoking portrait. This is an unusual opportunity for the AGO and its public to participate in the interpretation of a work of art -- one with possibly great cultural significance."