London, Apr 30 : Bristol University students curating a display of Tudor portraits uncovered a "ghost figure", which could only be William Shakespeare's only known patron - Henry Wriothesley, third Earl of Southampton.
An X-ray of a portrait of Henry Wriothesley's wife has uncovered a figure, believed to the earl, which has been painted over.
The figure was painted over with an image of his wife Elizabeth Vernon, a maid of honour to Queen Elizabeth I.
The group had one of the paintings x-rayed for a display at Montacute House in Somerset, when the secret portrait was revealed.
The image closely resembles the composition of portraits of the Earl, some of which have been attributed to the Dutch artist Paul van Somer, the National Portrait Gallery said. "It is thought that the unknown artist of this portrait painted over the image, possibly because a commission for a double portrait of husband and wife was abandoned in favour of the single portrait seen today," the Telegraph quoted a spokesman, as saying.
Shakespeare dedicated his poem Venus and Adonis to the Earl.