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Last Updated: Wednesday, 6 February 2008, 14:45 GMT
Gallery buys playwright painting
Portrait of John Fletcher
Fletcher's renown rivalled William Shakespeare's during his lifetime
The only known portrait of a Jacobean playwright who rivalled Shakespeare has finally been purchased by the National Portrait Gallery after an appeal.

The likeness of John Fletcher, by an unknown artist, has been bought from the 7th Earl of Clarenden for 218,000.

Donations to the gallery's appeal included 50,000 from The Art Fund and 2,700 from a raffle at the house in Rye, Sussex, where the writer was born.

Fletcher, a vicar's son, was born in 1579 and died of the plague in 1625.

As well as writing his own plays, he also collaborated with Shakespeare on Cardenio, which has been lost, The Famous History of the Life of King Henry VIII and The Two Noble Kinsmen.

'Popular playwrights'

The painting now completes the gallery's collection of portraits of 16th and 17th Century writers which features images of Shakespeare, Ben Jonson and John Donne.

Catharine MacLeod, curator of 17th Century portraits at the gallery, said: "The National Portrait Gallery's group of portraits of Elizabethan and Jacobean writers is one of the most significant and famous parts of the collection.

"John Fletcher was Shakespeare's collaborator and one of the most popular playwrights of his day.

"This portrait will enable us to fill in an important gap in the story that we are currently able to tell about literature in this period."

The painting has been on display at the gallery as part of its Searching for Shakespeare exhibition and has been on loan there to highlight its appeal.

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