Re-Posting No. 13 of 100 Reasons Why Shake-speare was the Earl of Oxford: Titian’s Painting of Adonis Wearing a Hat

“Venus and Adonis” by Titian, the painting that “Shakespeare” must have seen in Venice

He sees her coming and begins to glow…

And with his bonnet hides his angry brow…

For all askance he holds her in his eye …

Now was she just before him as he sat,

And like a lowly lover down she kneels…

O what a war of looks was then between them!

“Great Oxford,” the collection of essays from the De Vere Society, with its cover in reference to Dr. Noemi Magri’s article about the Titian painting

Her eyes petitioners to his eyes suing,

His eyes saw her eyes as they had not seen them;

Her eyes wooed still, his eyes disdained the wooing;

And all this dumb play had his acts made plain…

Some time her arms infold him like a band.

She would, he will not in her arms be bound…

For shame, he cries, let go and let me go.

Venus and Adonis, 337-342; 225-6; 349-350; 355-360; 379

Venus and Adonis by “William Shakespeare” in 1593 describes a painting by Tiziano Vecellio, or Titian, in which Adonis wears a bonnet or cap.  Although several copies of the Titian painting existed, the only one depicting a bonneted Adonis that could have been seen during Shakespeare’s time was at Titian’s home in Venice. William of Stratford never left England, but Edward de Vere had traveled throughout Italy during 1575-1576, making his home base in Venice, where Titian worked until his death on 27 August 1576.

Another by Titian — without the hat

This piece of factual evidence was presented by Dr. Noemi Magri in Great Oxford: Essays on the Life and Works of Edward de Vere (2004), a collection of papers from the De Vere Society in England:

Tizanio Vecellio, known as Titian (1488?-1576), whose home in Venice was a mecca for princes, ambassadors, cardinals, artists and literary men

“Titian’s painting was his source of inspiration, the thing that stimulated him to write a poem about this subject though he also had a thorough knowledge of Ovid … Shakespeare describes the painting in detail: he portrays the painting in words and the description is too faithful to ascribe it to mere coincidence…

“It is evident that Shakespeare’s Adonis is wearing a hat, a bonnet.  The mention of the bonnet is not coincidental.  This is the detail here taken as evidence of the pictorial source.”

With one fair hand she heaveth up his hat – 351

Bonnet nor veil henceforth no creature wear – 1081

And therefore would he put his bonnet on – 1087

Princes, cardinals, ambassadors and top literary figures “never failed to pay Titian a visit” when they came to Venice, Magri notes. His home was a kind of cultural center and such notables felt they could not leave without going to see the greatest painter of sixteenth-century Venice, the first to have a mainly international clientele.  To be received into his house was an honor that brought high prestige.

“Considering de Vere’s desire for learning and his love for Italian culture, he must have felt the wish to meet him and admire his collection,” writes Magri, who provides evidence to confirm that the autographed copy with Adonis wearing a hat, now held in the National Gallery of Palazzo Barberini in Rome, was in fact at Titian’s house when Oxford lived in Venice. Anyone who studies even a little of the earl’s life will conclude that he could not have failed to pay such a visit.

Shakespeare writes that Adonis looks at Venus “all askance,” which, Magri observes, “is a faithful and precise description of Adonis’ posture in the painting.”  Moreover, the two figures’ glances are “the central motif of the painting” and Shakespeare “has retained the dramatic pictorial element” in his description of their eyes as in, “Her eyes petitioners to his eyes suing.” Also Shakespeare’s reference to “this dumb play” is an accurate description: the play they have performed “is a dumb one since their words are not to be heard.”  The two protagonists, Venus and Adonis, “are not acting on a stage: they are painted on the canvas.”

Magri even notes how Venus, reacting angrily to Adonis’s resistance, bursts out a clear reference to the painted image of him:

Fie, lifeless picture, cold and senseless stone

Well-painted idol… (211-212)

Note: This reason is now No. 47 of 100 Reasons Shake-speare was the Earl of Oxford

See also Such Fruits Out of Italy – The Italian Renaissance in Shakespeare’s Plays and Poems by Noemi Magri.



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