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Portrait of Shakespeare collaborator saved by museum
The only known portrait of Sussex Jacobean playwright has been saved for the nation
The only known portrait of Sussex Jacobean playwright John Fletcher painted during his lifetime has been saved for the nation following a public appeal.

The National Portrait Gallery paid 218,000 to the 7th Earl of Clarendon for the painting of the poet and playwright, whose fame rivalled Shakespeare's in his day.

The painting, which has rarely been on public display, now completes the Gallery's collection of portraits of 16th and 17th century writers, which features images of Shakespeare, Ben Jonson and John Donne.

As well as writing his own plays, the dramatist, who was born in Rye in 1579 and died of the plague in 1625, collaborated with Shakespeare on Cardenio, which has been lost, The Famous History of the Life of King Henry VIII, and The Two Noble Kinsmen.

The artist behind the portrait, which is larger and more ostentatious than portraits of Jonson and Shakespeare, who came from humbler backgrounds, is not identified.

It shows Fletcher as a prosperous and well-dressed man with the tools of his trade, paper and pens.

Donations to the Gallery's appeal included 50,000 from The Art Fund and 2,700 raised from a raffle at the Sussex property where Fletcher, a vicar's son, was born.

Catharine MacLeod, curator of 17th century portraits at the gallery said: 'The National Portrait Gallery's group of portraits of Elizabethan and Jacobean writers is one of the most significant and famous parts of the collection.

'John Fletcher was Shakespeare's collaborator and one of the most popular playwrights of his day, and this portrait will enable us to fill in an important gap in the story that we are currently able to tell about literature in this period.'

Gallery director Sandy Nairne said: 'I am grateful to The Art Fund and all those who have supported this appeal - John Fletcher is a very worthy acquisition.'

Text by Press Association Ltd. 2008
 


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