So we've found the young son of a glove-maker, and the old man on his death-bed in Stratford-upon-Avon. But these are not The Bard - the star of London's great Tudor flowering ...
It is at the far end of the exhibition that you find this Shakespeare, indeed not one Bard, but many, looking phlegmatically out at the modern parade. For the core of the exhibition is one room containing eight Shakespeares, or rather eight "Shakespeares."
At the centre is the one painting that probably, almost certainly IS Shakespeare; yet, tantalisingly, complete proof is denied us. It is known as the Chandos portrait (left), after the family that owned it, and the full array of modern science - microscopic paint analysis, tree ring analysis, chemical tests - have all indicated that it is the right age, the right style, the right everything. But they cannot make it speak, cannot make it say: "My name is...”
Around are all of the false trails. Some are easily dismissed. There's the so-called Janssen portrait, which is indeed Jacobean, but modern science has demonstrated that the portrait had been over painted in the late 18th-century to look rather more like "Shakespeare" than the original. (It has now been restored to its original appearance.) And the Flanner portrait, now definitively dated to the early 19th-century, although painted over a 16th-century Madonna. And the Sanders portrait, which was painted in 1603, when Shakespeare was 39. There's a resemblance, but surely this man is too young?
Others are near misses in this painstaking search for Shakespeare. Closest perhaps is the so-called Grafton portrait (right). Painted on it are its date - 1588 - and the age of the sitter (24). That matches Shakespeare exactly. And the general shape of the face, the high forehead, the ears, show similarity to the Chandos image, and yet, and yet ... The man here wears a slashed crimson silk doublet - too rich, too grand, for the humble travelling player that Shakespeare is thought to have then been.
Then there are two almost certain "pretty good likenesses." One is the marble bust from about 1620 that was put in the Bard's parish church, probably based on a now lost image. Many of the people who looked on it then would have known the man himself, so it's a fair bet he looked rather like this. And there's the engraving from the First Folio edition (left), for which Ben Jonson, Shakespeare's friend, praised the engraver's ability to capture a "face."