Canadian Shakespeare News

The Sanders Portrait of Shakespeare: Five U of G Innovations Recognized as Game-Changing

Five U of G Innovations Recognized as Game-Changing

Five University of Guelph discoveries are being recognized as life-changing breakthroughs by the Council of Ontario Universities (COU).

The discoveries are among 50 innovations from Ontario universities over the last 100 years in COU’s Research Matters campaign, which will include a contest with the public voting. The campaign includes five U of G innovations, beginning with the Yukon Gold potato in 1966 and concluding with research on a purported portrait of William Shakespeare in 2014.

John Livernois, interim vice-president (research), said, “We only just celebrated our 50th anniversary, so to have five discoveries from U of G selected is a significant accomplishment. This is life-changing research, which has had a major impact on the lives of many Canadians.”

The five University of Guelph innovations are as follows:

Revealing Identities: Prof. Daniel Fischlin, English and Theatre Studies, suggests that a 400-year-old painting portrays William Shakespeare, which would make this the only known portrait painted during the Bard’s lifetime.

Improving Health: Prof. Bruce Holub, Human Health and Nutritional Sciences, discovers trans fats harm human health, resulting in their virtual elimination from supermarket shelves.

Creating New Vaccines: Pathobiology professors Pat Shewen and Bruce Wilkie develop a vaccine against “shipping fever” pneumonia in cattle, which becomes the foundation for all vaccines against this major disease.

Digitizing DNA: Prof. Paul Hebert, Integrative Biology, proposes DNA barcoding for species identification, with applications from protecting global biodiversity to curbing food fraud.

Reinventing the Potato: Gary Johnston, Plant Agriculture, creates the Yukon Gold potato to grow in challenging climates, and its taste and popularity make it a household name.

Livernois said these discoveries show Guelph’s wide-ranging research strengths.

“The University of Guelph has a proud heritage in research, and we are pleased to see these accomplishments recognized. Even today, we are still seeing extraordinary research from many departments at the University.”

Starting April 1, the public will be invited to vote on the list of “game-changing” discoveries made at Ontario universities. To see a full list and to register for the contest, visit starting April 1.

Voting will continue all summer at fairs and public events as the 50 game-changers go on the road with the Research Matters’ Curiosity Shop. The public’s top five favourites will be announced in the fall, and contest participants will be eligible for a draw.

New Yorker article features CASP Research on the Sanders Portrait

An April 28, 2014 essay published in the New Yorker and authored by Adam Gopnik focuses on the Sanders Portrait and CASP Director, Daniel Fischlin, describing the most recent phase of research into the Sanders Portrait of Shakespeare and its origins.

The recent issue of The New Yorker magazine features U of G English professor and University research Chair Daniel Fischlin. In an article entitled “The Poet’s Hand,” Fischlin discusses his work over the past decade to help authenticate the Sanders portrait, believed to be the only one of William Shakespeare painted while the playwright was alive. Fischlin outlines the scientific works that has been conducted to authenticate the painting, as well as efforts to trace family connections between Shakespeare and the ancestors of the portrait’s previous owner, Lloyd Sullivan.
Thought to depict the Bard at age 39, the Sanders portrait was the centrepiece of a months-long exhibit at Guelph’s Macdonald Stewart Art Centre in 2007. It’s also the signature image of U of G’s Canadian Adaptations of Shakespeare Project (CASP), the world’s largest and most complete website about Shakespeare’s cultural influence that was founded by Fischlin. Last fall, U of G hosted an international  symposium at the University of Toronto’s Munk Centre where evidence gathered by experts about the portrait was presented. Read more about the portrait.


Shakespeare Portrait, Faculty Make Headlines (April 25, 2014 – In the News)

Conference Explores Origins of Shakespeare Portrait

More than 400 years old, portrait still inspires interest

By Andrew Vowles
Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Sanders portrait of Shakespeare

The Sanders portrait

Daniel Fischlin was hunkered down by the phone in mid-December “waiting for the media feeding frenzy to begin.” News had broken that day of a tentative agreement to buy a Canadian-owned portrait believed to depict William Shakespeare during his lifetime, and the University of Guelph English professor expected to find himself in the middle of the story again.

Under the deal reached in early December, an anonymous Canadian family has agreed to buy the 410-year-old Sanders portrait from its longtime Ottawa owner, according to a Globe and Mail story published Dec. 15.

Some two decades after Lloyd Sullivan began researching the portrait – passed through his family from a distant maternal ancestor contemporary with Shakespeare — evidence continues to mount that the work is the only likeness of the Bard done from life.

Speaking of the tentative sale, Fischlin says, “It’s a very complicated negotiation.”

He says the deal will likely be completed in early 2014; the new owners are expected to donate the portrait to an unnamed public art institution in Canada.

Referring to Sullivan, he says “the owner is very happy, because these buyers understand that this is really a legacy issue and are gearing up to do the right thing.”

That means “bringing the portrait into a public space, ramping up the information about the portrait. Growing that bandwidth is really important. It’s the beginning of a whole other sequence of events that are probably going to be more involved than the work so far.”

Much of that work, including recent research connecting Shakespeare with the Sanders family and other associates from Elizabethan and Jacobean England, has been led by Fischlin and other scholars on both sides of the Atlantic.

Those findings and the earlier detective work into the portrait’s provenance were discussed by experts during a one-day symposium in Toronto last month. Negotiations for the portrait’s sale were still occurring during the event.

The Sanders portrait is believed to depict William Shakespeare at age 39. The painting belongs to Sullivan, an Ottawa engineer. His family has passed it down from John Sanders. Family lore says Sanders was a painter and actor with Shakespeare’s theatre company, the Lord Chamberlain’s Men (later called the King’s Men).

Sullivan inherited the piece from his mother in 1972. Since retiring some 20 years ago, he has researched the painting.

At the Toronto conference, scientists, costume experts, historians, writers and museum curators discussed everything from the doublet worn by the sitter to tests validating the age of the paint, the wood panel and the label affixed to the back of the portrait.

Fischlin’s recent work has involved genealogy and geography in the British Midlands and London and between Canada and England. He is a University Research Chair and founding director of the Canadian Adaptations of Shakespeare Project (CASP), the world’s most comprehensive website about the Bard’s cultural influence.

He and other researchers – notably British genealogist Pam Hinks — have traced Sullivan’s family through 13 unbroken generations and 10 great-grandfathers back to Shakespeare’s lifetime.

They have visited gravesites, uncovered and transcribed historical documents, examined major historical archives in the United Kingdom and interviewed Sullivan’s relatives.

That path has led to a small group of villages in the Midlands and to the part of London where Shakespeare and his acquaintances are known to have lived.

Before moving to London, Shakespeare and Sanders lived in towns about eight miles apart in and around Stratford. So did John Heminges, another company actor and eventually co-editor of the 1623 First Folio of Shakespeare’s works.

By 1603, all three were residents in the capital, living only minutes from each other in adjoining parishes.

Heminges and John Sanders’s son – also John and an early ancestor to Lloyd Sullivan – were both active members of the Grocers’ guild during the early 1600s.

Those connections strengthen the argument that Sanders was close enough to have painted Shakespeare, says Fischlin.

“It would have been impossible for the two men not to have been intimately acquainted with each other, not only because their families came from neighbouring villages in the Midlands, but also because they would have had significantly overlapped business interests.”

Fischlin plans to continue this work, including investigating leads about where artist and sitter met in London.

“We’re very close to identifying the workshop where the painting was painted. We seem to have a member of the Sanders family married into an apprentice from this workshop,” he says.

He adds that “the workshop was well known to the theatre scene in London in that period and also was close physically to where the Sanders and Heminges families and Shakespeare were all living at the time.

“It’s not definitive but it’s very, very promising.”

The Sanders portrait was exhibited at the University of Guelph’s Macdonald Stewart Art Centre for six months in 2007. That year, U of G teamed up with some 30 local arts and culture organizations in more than 50 community programs and activities centred on Shakespeare and the painting.

The portrait is the signature image of CASP. It also appears on new copies of The Tempest and Romeo and Juliet, the first editions of Shakespeare’s works to feature the Sanders likeness on their cover.

Those volumes were published by the Canadian arm of Oxford University Press. Acquisitions editor Jen Rubio credits her late father, Gerald Rubio, an English professor at U of G, for instilling some of Shakespeare’s words during her childhood.

He often borrowed lines from the Bard to suit a particular situation, even if listeners failed to pick up on the reference. Once quoting Hamlet after a restaurant meal, she says, “He later said, ‘The funeral baked meats did coldly furnish forth the marriage tables.’”

Rubio says the genealogical research and information about the Grocers’ guild uncovered by Fischlin and other scholars was new to her. “It’s amazing what research you can do from back in 1603.”

She is convinced that the Sanders portrait is an authentic likeness of Shakespeare. “I don’t see how anybody can read the evidence and think otherwise. I haven’t actually heard a good argument why we should not believe it.”

“It is such a compelling image,” says U of G president Alastair Summerlee. He attended the Toronto symposium and was involved in seeking a buyer for the Sanders portrait, which has been held for more than a year at U of G.

Commenting on the debate over a 410-year-old likeness, Summerlee says, “It matters because we all know Shakespeare. We all know him because we are all imbued in his work. As a scientist I know we have a craving to associate faces with people.”

Recent Media Stories on the Sanders Portrait Symposium and Sale

Following upon the November 28, 2013 Symposium “Look Here Upon this Picture: A Symposium on the Sanders Portrait of Shakespeare”, held at the Munk Centre, University of Toronto, a number of media outlets have released stories or done full-length radio shows about the Sanders Portrait:

Canadian family to buy portrait at centre of Shakespeare art mystery (Globe & Mail)

Faces of Our Ancestors a Reflection of Ourselves (Guelph Mercury)

The Sanders Portrait of Shakespeare: Interviews and Discussion (CFRU Radio featuring Andrew Bretz, Daniel Fischlin, John Kissick, and Diane Nalini)

CBC: The Morning Edition (December, 2013 with Craig Norris)

Social Media on Storify (December 2013)

As It Happens (CBC December 16, 2013)

SANDERS PORTRAIT Duration: 00:06:53
Members of the Sullivan family were sure they were living with William Shakespeare. The problem was convincing anyone else.The Sullivans were the owners of what they believed to be the one and only true portrait of Shakespeare, painted by an ancient relative. But it was tough to know what exactly to do with the treasure.Lloyd Sullivan has been fighting for decades to prove to the world his painting is indeed an authentic likeness of the great writer. Many experts now agree that the Sanders Portrait is indeed Shakespeare — but either way, it’s a battle Lloyd will no longer have to fight: a deal is being brokered for the sale of the painting to an unknown Canadian buyer.We reached Lloyd Sullivan at his home in Ottawa.

Canadian-owned painting purported to be only life-likeness of Shakespeare changing hands  (Steve Mertl, Yahoo News Canada)

Shakespeare portrait sale has major U of G connection (Guelph Mercury, December 16, 2013)

Canadian man said to own only portrait of Shakespeare (The Ontarian, December 5, 2013)

Conference Explores Origins of Shakespeare Portrait (Andrew Vowles, January 16, 2014)

OUP offers Shakespeare series with a Canadian twist


OUP offers Shakespeare series with a Canadian twist

Less than a year after officially shuttering its Canadian trade division, Oxford University Press has released a new series of Shakespeare’s plays with crossover appeal and a distinctly Canadian twist. The Shakespeare Made in Canada series edited by Daniel Fischlin comprises Shakespeare plays paired with introductions by Canadian scholars. Each text also includes a preface by an artist who has been involved with the adaptation of a Shakespearean work in Canada, as well as explanatory notes and reading tips. The first titles in the series are Romeo and Juliet and The Tempest, and Hamlet and A Midsummer Night’s Dream are already in the works.

In accordance with OUP Canada’s new “curriculum-based” focus, the series is designed to serve as a teaching text for Canadian undergraduate students, though acquiring editor Jennie Rubio says she expects it to received interest from theatregoers and other non-academic consumers.

The series’ genesis was aided by the Canadian Adaptations of Shakespeare Project at the University of Guelph, a research venture focusing on how Canadians have historically read and reproduced works by the Bard. The project team, led by general editor of the Shakespeare Made in Canada series, Daniel Fischlin, selected the titles for publication from their archives.

“They’ve done a ton of research on how we’ve adapted Shakespeare from the 1760s … adaptations by new settlers, Aboriginals, and French-English ones,” Rubio says. “There are just a lot of interesting things and insights that have come from Canadian productions and this incredible diversity in how Canadians have made these adaptations over time.”

A further Canadian link is showcased on the cover of each title in the series, which depicts what is believed to be the only sitting portrait of Shakespeare painted during his lifetime. The painting, known as the Sanders portrait of Shakespeare, belongs to a Canadian family that emigrated from England in the 19th century. A conference discussing the portrait, to be held at the University of Toronto on Nov. 28, coincides with the series’ release.

“It’s a weird Canadian connection,” says Rubio. “Shakespeare’s work is almost as Canadian as it is British by now, because we’ve done so much adaptation.”

OUP plans to see how well the series succeeds before deciding to move forward with additional titles, though Rubio says Othello may be next in line and has a personal preference for As You Like It.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.