Richard III’s Facial Reconstruction Unveiled

Today, the Richard III Society officially unveiled the facial reconstruction of Richard III by the University of Dundee craniofacial identification team. The finished result is perhaps most amazing in one aspect – just how much it looks like the portraits of the late King.

The facial reconstruction (left) and a non-contemporary portrait of Richard III (right)

The facial reconstruction (left) and a non-contemporary portrait of Richard III (right)

The facial reconstruction is highly significant because there are no surviving contemporary portraits of Richard III. The reconstructed face has a slightly arched nose and prominent chin, quite similar to the portraits that were appeared years and centuries after Richard III’s death. According to Dr Ashdown-Hill, the fact most of the surviving portraits of the King are so alike in every detail (not to mention resemble the reconstructions), suggests all of them were based on a single contemporary portrait painted in the King’s lifetime.

Professor Caroline Wilkinson shared details of the process that allowed as to “face” the last King who has died over 500 years ago: “When the 3D digital bust was complete it was replicated in plastic using a rapid prototyping system and this was painted, prosthetic eyes added and dressed with a wig, hat and clothing.” At that point, existing portraits of Richard III were used as a reference for hair, eye and skin colour as well as hair and clothing style.

Richard III Society member Philippa Langley and society Chairman Dr Phil Stone pose with a facial reconstruction of King Richard

Richard III Society member Philippa Langley and society Chairman Dr Phil Stone pose with a facial reconstruction of King Richard

The resulting reconstruction really is quite amazing. As Dr Ashdown-Hill put, it feels almost as if we are “face to face with a real person”. He added: “When I stood by the grave in Leicester, I felt closer to Richard III than I had ever been, but when I saw the facial reconstruction I realised I had been close to a dead Richard III. Confronting a facial reconstruction, I felt almost in the presence of a living Richard III”.

It is expected that the reconstruction will be put on public display in future.

Yesterday, results of DNA tests were released which confirmed the bones found in the Leicester car park do indeed belong to the last Plantagenet Monarch. You can read about it here – DNA tests confirm remains found in a Leicester car park belong to Richard III.

For an assessment of Richard III’s life and character, have a look at this article – Richard III: A villain or a victim of a successful propaganda?

Credit for the picture: @ Channel 4

Sources:  @ Channel 4, @ BBC, @ University of Leicester, @ University of Dundee, @ Richard III Society 

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