If you’ve ever seen a movie star in person, you know the camera isn’t always honest. Well, replace camera with artistic depiction add a millennium or two, and consider that the patron had to like the artist’s work—or else! The result is a bunch of legendary historical figures that actually looked completely different than we’ve been told. But thanks to modern technology and intricate research, we’ve uncovered the unbelievable truth about what these historical figures really looked like.
In 2006, the education center of Mount Vernon, a team of Smithsonian experts, and the National Museum of Dentistry collaborated to build these lifelike mannequin depictions of the first President at ages 19, 45, and 57. His preserved dentures played a crucial role in determining his head shape.
There aren’t nearly as many depictions of the Victorian author as there are of her timeless characters. It took three years for a team at the Jane Austen Center—including an artist, sculptor, award-winning costume designer, and hair artist—to create this almost human wax figure.
When we think of the boy that was buried behind that gorgeous golden mask, we don’t really think of a buck-toothed, wide-hipped, club-footed product of incest, but this “virtual autopsy” involving more than 2,000 computer scans reveals what he likely looked like.
It’s hard to recognize him without the frilly collar around his neck, but this is Shakespeare’s face, recreating using “advanced facial-reconstruction techniques and 3D imprint detailing” for the History Channel special “Death Masks.”
One of Shakespeare’s greatest antiheroes, Richard III is often seen as a villainous, murderous, and depraved… but this gentle face constructed after his skeleton was found begs to differ. When his bones were found under a parking lot in Leicester, they did confirm scoliosis in the spine, giving credence to the hunchback story.
Is that the face of a musical genius? When given a lifelike texture, Bach’s opulent face makes us prefer a stone-cold bust on our piano mantle.
Jesus of Nazareth
Retired medical artist Richard Neave used forensic anthropology techniques to recreate the face of Jesus from written accounts, probable ethnic features, and real pieces of Semite skulls.