Everyone who is or was anyone was on show last night at the William Breakbone Birthplace Museum, Powerstock, as the art world gathered to celebrate the acquisition of a new portrait of Elizabethan master playwright William Breakebone [1564-1616] whose "Haddocke's Minge" Sonnet is about to be auctioned by Sotherbone''s the Dorset-based Fine Auctioneers and Valuers. The portrait, the gift of the Friends of the William Breakebone Birthplace Museum, was unveiled by Breakebone scholar Dr Matthew Tarentella-Boudicea- Threadpiece-Breakebone (no relation) whose recent biography of the playwright and rival of both William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe, received such a cool critical reception at the Glanvilles Wootton Literary Festival last year.
Speaking to the assembled canapé-focussed cognoscenti, Dr Tarentella-Boudicea-Threadpiece-Breakebone did not fight shy of the controversy which has surrounded this the latest in a series of acquisitions by the Powerstock-based institution. "On the basis of known and appropriately authenticated images of the playwright, many have thought it right to question both the attribution [Nicholas de Hilliard-Ensemble] and the sitter. Whilst many believe it the be the work of "the other" famous Elizabethan portraitist Un Knowne whose work hangs in galleries throughout West Dorset, some also believe the subject to be not Breakebone but his second cousin Percy de Spearepiece. For myself, I believe the striking resemblance between this portrait and the later one of the playwright as an old man by Hans Onlottie Holbein to be so striking as to encourage the absence of all doubt."
Though such assurances appear to have satisfied many at the champagne-infused gathering, Kington Magna gallery owner and Victorian miniature watercolour expert Victoria Pastel begs to differ. "It's as plain as the slightly misplaced nosed on a blue period Picasso, that this is not the work of Nicholas de Hilliard-Ensemble - for started Hilliard-Ensemble preferred his ruffs to be napkin not rumpled-doilly-shaped and the colouring is all wrong. And besides, Breakebone had famously good eyesight - he once spotted soiling on his wife's "friend's" codpiece at 50 yards - so what's with the spectacles?" Ms Pastel has a variety of Victorian watercolours for sale from as little as 500 guineas.