This is one of two objects in the collection which relate to the portrait of William Shakespeare (1564-1616) that Brown was commissioned to paint by the Dickinson Brothers in 1849 (1849-1850, oil on canvas, Manchester Art Gallery). In November he records in his diary that he 'began the Portrait of Shakespear [sic] for the Dickinsons. Painted a scetch [sic] of it, made a drawing of the head, and a study from Mr Barker for it. Drew a cartoon of it, had the Dress made up' (Virginia Surtees, ed., 'The Diary of Ford Madox Brown,' p. 69). As he later explained the portrait was 'carefully collated from different known portraits, and more than any other from the bust at Stratford. This picture is an attempt to supply the want of credible likeness of our national poet, as a historian recasts some tale, told long since by chroniclers in many fragments' (The Exhibition of Work and other Paintings by Ford Madox Brown, 1865, p. 6)Brown had finished the work by Spring 1850 and was asked to design the invitation card to view the portrait at the Dickinsons' gallery on New Bond Street, London (see 1906P799). Brown resentfully noted in his diary: 'I was paid 60s guineas [for the painting] ... afterwards I designed a card for Dickinson exhibition of Shakespear on which I worked several days for no remuneration' ('The Diary of Ford Madox Brown,' p.72).It is unclear whether this drawing of Shakespeare is an early study for the portrait or the invitation as Shakespeare is depicted in a different costume to either the painting or the card, and his left hand rests on a table stacked with books rather than hanging by his side. LM

  • Purchased and presented by subscribers, 1906
  • © Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery


Association Artist Organisation
Artist Ford Madox Brown -


Type Position(s) Method Date(s) Notes
Gulielmus Shakspear
Inscription bottom centre Handwritten 1849 Pencil.


Author(s) Date(s) Publisher Pages
City of Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery: Catalogue of the Permanent Collection of Drawings
A E Whitley 1939 Bemrose & Sons, Ltd., Derby p. 48
Ford Madox Brown: The Unofficial Pre-Raphaelite
Laura MacCulloch, Tessa Sidey 2008 D. Giles Limited, London p. 69

Associated people

Name Type
William Shakespeare Associated with

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