Mon, Aug 20, 2007 - Page 6 News List

Purported death mask of Napoleon not his: historian


The purported death mask of Napoleon on show in a Paris museum is not that of the emperor, a historian alleged on Saturday, with some reports suggesting it is that of his butler.

Bruno Rey-Henry claimed the real death mask had been auctioned in 2004 to an unidentified individual after being on display in London's Royal United Services Institute museum for some 25 years.

Rey-Henry said the mask in Paris' military museum, close to Napoleon's tomb in the Invalides, does not display a scar on the left cheek which figures in a portrait of the emperor after his surrender in 1815 by British artist Charles Lock Eastlake.

The scar was on the mask formerly in the London museum, he said, adding that the French example also did not match up to Napoleon's known appearance.

The French daily Liberation said on Saturday the Paris mask could be that of Napoleon's butler, Cipriani Franceschi, whose body conspiracy theorists claim was the one brought back to France for burial.

Conspiracy theorists allege the emperor was poisoned during his exile on the British island of Saint Helena and that Franceschi's body was used to cover up the deed.

"It would be better if the false mask which is portrayed ... as being the face of the emperor on his death-bed were removed from public view," Rey-Henry said.

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