Mid 16th Century
Portrait of a Playwright

Oil on copper
Image size: 3 3/4 x 5 inches (9.5 x 12.75 cm)
Period style frame


Please scroll down for more information and a framed image.

This is likely to be a portrait of Edmund Spenser. Spenser was an English poet best known for The Faerie Queene, an epic poem and fantastical allegory celebrating the Tudor dynasty and Elizabeth I. He is recognised as one of the premier craftsmen of nascent Modern English verse and is often considered one of the greatest poets of the English language.

He is invariably depicted with a ruff and a neatly clipped beard and, if shown in fuller profile as here, wearing the doublet and tights that were thought to have been de rigeur at Queen Elizabeth’s court. There is a general consensus that Spenser was a small, thin and rather haughty looking man with a neatly trimmed beard. However, there is no verifiable portrait of the author of The Faerie Queene. Nor do any pictures of his wives or descendants survive. This is of little surprise as there are no reliable images of many of his contemporaries either.

The only near-contemporary description of Spenser if that recorded by John Aubrey: ‘Mr Beeston says he [Spenser] was a little man, wore short hair and little cuffs’. The ‘Kinnoull Portrait’ has long been accepted as a possible portrait of Spenser – the comparisons between this work and The Kinnoull Portrait are undeniable, the distinctive long nose, pointed beard and receding hairline being framed by an impressive circle ruff that sits high on his neck.