Friday, February 24, 2006

Shakespeare death mask 'genuine'


NEWS.com.au: "A 17TH-CENTURY death mask claimed to be that of British playwright William Shakespeare could be genuine, according to new research.
The mask, discovered in a ragpicker's shop in 1842 and now owned by the German city of Darmstadt, has long been a subject of controversy.

It bears the high forehead and prominent nose and beard associated with the Bard and bears the inscription ' Ao Dm 1616', apparently meaning 'Died Anno Domini 1616', the year Shakespeare passed away at the age of 52.

But leading scholars have questioned the provenance of the mask and also said it is not a close enough match to the tiny handful of portraits that can be attributed to Shakespeare.

Using a computer technique employed by the police to test whether separate facial images belong to the same person, scientist Reinhardt Altmann found close matches around the eyes, nose and lips of the paintings and bust, leading him to conclude the faces were all those of the same individual.

Engineers from imaging company Konica Minolta Europe scanned the bust and death mask with lasers to build up 3D computer models.

"Superimposing the models revealed perfect matches between the forehead, eyes and nose," New Scientist said.

The difference is the lips on the death mask are thinner than those on the bust, but University of Mainz academic Hildegard Hammerschmidt-Hummel, who is a champion of the mask, contends this is normal, for the lips would have shrunk with the loss of blood pressure after death."