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Last Updated: Thursday, 23 February 2006, 11:14 GMT
Images 'show face of Shakespeare'
Shakespeare model
The 3D model combines the features of the mask and bust
Forensic experts claim to have proved a bust and a death mask are the exact likeness of William Shakespeare.

Scientists in Germany scanned the sculptures using computerised imaging techniques to show that they match up with portraits of the Bard.

The systems, used by police, map out a person's face to identify whether they tally with known pictures.

Elizabethan experts deny the claim, saying busts and portraits were not true likenesses so often look similar.

The investigation was led by Dr Hildegard Hammerschmidt-Hummel, of the University of Mainz, who has published a book on her findings.

The model of the similar features was built after researchers used the techniques to show that the Davenant bust matches pictures of Shakespeare.

They found the bust's facial features coincided with those of the death mask, which is owned by the German city of Darmstadt.

Shakespeare died aged 52 in 1616, the same year inscribed into the back of the mask.

Leading scholars have doubted its authenticity and the credibility of the bust, which they claim was made 142 years after the playwright's death.

Death claim

They matched the images with the Chandos portrait, the first picture bought by the National Portrait Gallery in 1856, which is believed to be Shakespeare.

The Devanant bust
The Davenant bust is housed in London's Garrick Club

The police technique, used to show whether separate facial images belong to the same person, found close matches between the paintings and the bust.

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

In her book, Dr Hammerschmidt-Hummel claims to have traced the history of the bust back to 1613, when she believes Shakespeare may have commissioned it.

She also claims that the death mask has a lump above the eye which she says shows the Bard died from a form of cancer.

Catherine Alexander, of the Shakespeare Institute in Stratford-upon-Avon, disputes the results as being based on a "false premise".

She said representations of Elizabethan men were "spruced up" to make them look intelligent and rich and were not intended to be exact likenesses.

Professor Hammerschmidt-Hummel interview on Today

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