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Art Collector Finds The "Real" Shakespeare

Three years ago, on a visit to Britain's National Portrait Gallery, an art restorer named Alec Cobbe noticed a portrait of Shakespeare which strongly resembled a painting in his own family's art collection.

Today, reports CBS News correspondent Richard Roth, some Shakespeare scholars in Britain claim the Cobbe painting is actually the real thing - the only known lifetime portrait of the world's most famous playwright.

In the industry called bard-ology, it's like claiming discovery of the Holy Grail.

If authentic, the painting is the source for an engraving of Shakespeare's likeness on the first folio of his work, and for a bust on his tomb in Stratford-upon-Avon; the only images generally accepted as authentic.

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"Shakespeare became highly successful and a wealthy man towards the end of his life," says Shakespearean scholar Stanley Wells. "And this is a portrait of a rich man."

"The identification of this portrait marks a major development in the history of Shakespearian portraiture," said Wells, chairman of The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust in Stratford. "The evidence that it represents Shakespeare and that it was done from life, though it is circumstantial, is in my view overwhelming."

But the debate is unlikely to end with that.

When the National Portrait Gallery last looked at the evidence its experts concluded the real original lifetime likeness of the bard was a painting known as the Chandos portrait, which it called an emblem of national identity.

What's in a name, reports Roth, may still be trivial. But there's a whole new argument about which face goes with it.

The Cobbe portrait, which has been in the Cobbe family collection for some 300 years, is to go on public display at The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust in Stratford on April 23 - Shakespeare's birthday.

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