Face to Face with Shakespeare
The Wadlow matches higher than any other supposed portrait of Shakespeare and in one test matches at 94.4%
When researching a portrait of Shakespeare there are many new pieces of technology that can be brought to bear. So on this page we are going to look at what facial comparison software can tell us about the respective Shakespeare portraits. We are not claiming that this is exhaustive or definitive, but the results are interesting. Before seeing those results here are a few more traditional methods of comparing faces.
The Droeshout engraving with the Wadlow portrait face on the right.
At the top of the Wadlow portrait is a number 31 which fits in with Shakespeare's age in 1595 the year that Peter Wadlow was told the portrait was painted. so it is not surprising that although his hairline is receding he still has hair. We thought it would be interesting to see what the Wadlow sitter would look like once he lost his hair.
Graphic interpretation of the bald Wadlow Portrait .
For the sake of comparison we cut the face of the Droeshout and pasted it onto the Wadlow portrait by matching the position of the eyes and mouth. The human eye is often the best tool to make these kind of judgements but in the next section we will see how computer software handles this type of comparison.
The Wadlow Portrait with the Droeshout face
We are not claiming this is definitive, as if we put the same images into different software who is to say that we might not get completely different results.
However, when we put the Wadlow portrait into facial comparison software, these were the results. Here is the link to the software used.
We compared the Droeshout engraving with paintings that are the leading contenders to be portraits of Shakespeare painted during his life time. Some are even considered to possibly be the portrait that the Droeshout was based on. We added two modern photographs to test the software against images not thoguht to be Shakespeare.
The Wadlow at 91.2% was the best match followed by the Chandos at 88% then portraits of Southampton, Shakespeare's patron and Edward de Vere. Surprisingly both of these scored higher than the Cobbe portrait and the new Peake portrait.
When we made all the images black and white the Wadlow scored even higher at 92.6%.
As our starting point we used the Droeshout engraving which is the only 2d image that had the blessing of Shakespeare's family and friends. 400 years ago it was used as the frontispiece of the first folio of Shakespeare's plays. We tried using software to compare portraits with the bust on the Shakespeare memorial in Straford upon Avon but the software couldn't handle it.
In case the colour was throwing the results out we decided to compare the portraits with the Flowers portrait which when compared with the Droeshout scored 93%.
Once again the Wadlow portrait was the closest match with 89.7% the Sanders was next closest with 87.5% which was higher than it scored against the Droeshout. The Chandos was the third closest match, just ahead of the Cobbe and then the Grafton portrait with 84.5 %
We made a graphic representation of what the Wadlow would look like once he lost his hair and then compared that with the Droeshout Engraving. The result was even more of a surprise as it matched 94.4%.