Richard Burbage, the leading actor in the Lord Chamberlain’s Company (which became the King’s Men), built the Globe Theatre and played a series of leading roles there in plays by his contemporaries Shakespeare, Jonson and others.
This is the only known image of him, identified by William Cartwright in a hand-written list as ‘Mr Burbig his head...’. Cartwright’s father was also an actor, and must have known Burbage - it seems a reliable identification. This, then, is the face of the first Richard III, Hamlet, Lear and Othello, the most significant actor before Garrick.
The work’s conservation has revealed a more colourful background, and a blonde tint to his hair.