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Historical Faces

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Cuchulainn
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Historical Faces

Post by Cuchulainn » Wed July 20th, 2011, 2:25 am

I am absolutely fascinated and curious about how historical personages actually looked. And without any reasonable basis whatsoever I remain hopeful that, somehow, we will eventually know how a lot more of them did look.

What did King Alfred look like? There is a very primitive painting of him on the page-turning book mark thingy. King Harold and William Conqueror are on the Bayou Tapestry, but you don't get a real sense of how they looked. And Kublai Khan and all the rest must be so stylized as to be unrecognizable.

I wish they would do more of that forensic reconstruction with the skulls of historical personages they do have (where they build up the muscles, etc. and arrive at an approximation of how someone looked).

Anyhow, I thought it might be neat to start at thread where users could suggest links to images, or set out thoughts about how people looked.

One thing I can't discover is whether the bust of Cleopatra is an actual likeness of her. I though the only likeness was one a coin, but there is bust as well. Does anybody know?

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Michy
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Post by Michy » Wed July 20th, 2011, 4:56 am

Unfortunately for those of us who would love to know how people in the past really looked, prior to the Renaissance art was far more stylized and symbolic than realistic. People were painted according to the ideals of the time. Royalty, in particular, were depicted in ways meant to symbolically represent their royalty and power, not to represent how they actually looked.

Perhaps, as you suggest, modern science will allow for a closer guess at how some people looked, at least in cases where skulls exist and can be positively identified. For the others, well, we'll just never know. *sigh*

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MLE (Emily Cotton)
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Post by MLE (Emily Cotton) » Wed July 20th, 2011, 5:05 am

Judging from the Greek and Roman sculpture I have seen, they depicted their subjects very realistically. If Nero, for instance, was prettied up for his sculpture, he must have been exceedingly gross to start with.

So I would guess that the bust of Cleopatra is fairly accurate.

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Michy
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Post by Michy » Wed July 20th, 2011, 2:26 pm

[quote=""MLE""]Judging from the Greek and Roman sculpture I have seen, they depicted their subjects very realistically. [/quote] Really? To me they all look the same. Maybe I just don't look at them closely enough. Or perhaps it's the all-whiteness that makes it harder for me to discern uniqueness.

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fljustice
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Post by fljustice » Wed July 20th, 2011, 6:30 pm

[quote=""Michy""]Really? To me they all look the same. Maybe I just don't look at them closely enough. Or perhaps it's the all-whiteness that makes it harder for me to discern uniqueness.[/quote]

The Greeks were more stylized, but the Romans made a fetish out of more realistic busts. The bodies might be more stylized, but the head and hair were (for the most part) based on life. It's fun to go the Met in New York and look at the collection. Side by side, you can see the hooked nose, the wrinkles around the eyes and mouth, the long jaw, etc. When they were new, they were painted in vivid colors. Some of the paint can still be seen in nooks and crannies.

I just came back from D.C. where we visited Mt. Vernon. They have three newly made wax statues of George in the museum and a great video on how they used portraits, paintings, his dentures, life masks, etc. to build the busts and portray his age as a young man, middle age, and elderly. I don't know how accurate they are, but they were stunning!
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Michy
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Post by Michy » Wed July 20th, 2011, 6:45 pm

[quote=""fljustice""]I just came back from D.C. where we visited Mt. Vernon. They have three newly made wax statues of George in the museum and a great video on how they used portraits, paintings, his dentures, life masks, etc. to build the busts and portray his age as a young man, middle age, and elderly. I don't know how accurate they are, but they were stunning![/quote] And don't you love that huge face of George carved into the wall, that turns and follows you as you walk from one side to the other? I took pictures of it from both sides.

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