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George Chapman

© National Portrait Gallery, London

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George Chapman

by William Hole (Holle), after Unknown artist
line engraving, published 1616
9 1/8 in. x 6 in. (231 mm x 153 mm) paper size
Accessioned, 1992
Reference Collection
NPG D2941

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This unusual portrait of Chapman with his head in the clouds appeared in his translation of The Whole Works of Homer, published in 1616.

Linked publicationsback to top

  • Bolland, Charlotte, Tudor & Jacobean Portraits, 2018, p. 121 Read entry

    Trained as a classical scholar, George Chapman achieved success as both a poet and a playwright in the late 1590s. He fought under Captain Robert Sidney in the Netherlands, and the detailed description of the 1591 siege of Nijmegen in The Shadow of Night (1594) suggests that he experienced it at first hand. A contemporary of Shakespeare, he wrote comedies as well as tragedies for the Lord Admiral's Men. He co-authored Eastward Ho! with Ben Jonson and John Marston in 1605; the play mocked James I's sale of knighthoods, and they were sent to prison with the threat of having their ears and noses cut. Late in life he devoted himself to classical translations. This unusual portrait of Chapman appeared in his translation of The Whole Works of Homer (1616) but was not used for his poetical works or his published plays. The composition and inscriptions acknowledge the divine aid that raises the poet's or philosopher's thoughts above the pedestrian during the creative process. The inscriptions read: AETA: LVII. M.DC.XVI. GEORGIVS CHAPMANVS HOMERI METAPHRASTES; Hæc est laurigeri facies divina Georgi ('This is the excellent portrait of George crowned with laurels'); Hic Phoebi Decus est; Phoebinuma Deus ('This is the divine face of Phoebus'); CONSCIVM EVASI DIEM ('I have escaped the conscious day'). The engraving is one of Hole's most technically accomplished works, and the portrait is meticulously observed.

  • Charles Nicholl, Shakespeare and his Contemporaries, 2015, p. 79
  • Cooper, Tarnya, Searching for Shakespeare, 2006 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 2 March - 29 May 2006), p. 190
  • Nicholl, Charles, Insights: Shakespeare and His Contemporaries, 2005, p. 62

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Events of 1616back to top

Current affairs

Playwright, William Shakespeare, dies in Stratford-Upon-Avon on 23rd April, after he contracted a fever. He is buried days later inside Holy Trinity Church in Stratford.
James I's second son, Charles, is invested as Prince of Wales at a lavish ceremony at Whitehall.

Art and science

Poet and playwright Benjamin Jonson, is granted a royal pension effectively establishing him as the first poet laureate in all but name.
Queen Anne commissions Inigo Jones to design a pavilion at Greenwich, the Queen's House.

International

Sir Walter Ralegh, released from prison, begins planning an expedition to Guiana in search of El Dorado. With established Spanish settlements in the area, Ralegh's expedition unsettled the court which sought lasting peace with Spain.
The Catholic Church places Nicolaus Copernicus's De revolutionibus, 1543, on its list of prohibited books.

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