Experts believe the image to be the only surviving likeness of the prolific playwright painted during his lifetime.
The work depicts what appears to be a wealthy Englishman in fine clothes with a lace collar, a neat beard and a receding hairline.
The painting had been hanging for a long time in an 18-century estate near Dublin, Ireland that was owned by the wealthy Cobbe family. Then three years ago, Alec Cobbe stumbled upon an image that was eerily similar to his family's painting at an exhibit at London's National Portrait Gallery called "Searching for Shakespeare."
Out of curiosity, Cobbe sent his own painting off for authentication. Experts told him they were almost certain the man on the canvas was William Shakespeare. They also dated the portrait to the year 1610 A.D., when the bard would have been 46-years-old.
All other known pictures of England's national poet were created posthumously.
Shakespeare enthusiasts hope the image will shed some light on the life of a man whose personal history has been largely shrouded in mystery.
The portrait is slated to be on display at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust in Stratford-upon-Avon starting on the poet's birthday, April 23rd.
Photo courtesy: Shakespeare Birthplace Trust