Friday, December 27, 2013

Bringing The Past To Life

King Henry IV of France
Added to the list of things I want to see more of in 2014: more exhibits and materials going online for people around the world to see, more stability in regions of the world troubled by war and turmoil (we can't have people looting and blowing up antiquities) and more 3-D renderings of historical figures. I know that we have paintings, drawings, statues, Madame Tussauds and the like. What we don't have, however, is accuracy. Yes, I know, in many cases the given historical figure had actually sat for the artist, but you only get so much out of a painting.

This is where 3-D biometric renderings are so fascinating. They add a depth and reality to history. One gets to actually see through the wonders of artistically neutral medical science how these people actually looked. You get to see the height (or lack there of), the true skin tone, deformities saved from the artists' pleasing hands. As a historian I find the reality of these re-creations truly enlightening. Seeing these people how their contemporaries and charges saw them puts their story in a clearer light. The final result of these figures is incredible life-like in art and history.
Queen Nefertiti of Egypt

Unfortunately, what is needed in these cases is an intact skull. Those are few and far between. If you do have a skull is it the real skull or a fake? Yet where you do on both counts the results are quite magical. I give credit to the actors and actresses who have portrayed these figures over the years. They have been the ones who we have relied on to perform this enjoyable task. I take nothing away from their craft. They, along with artists who try to be a real as possible, will always be a part of historical re-creation. These renderings will be a small subset due to the lack of available brain boxes, but where and when they can be done I look forward to seeing them.

As I was reading through the comments on a Facebook posting of this subject one poster made an interesting point. Why not put these models in modern clothes to see what they would look like in the modern era? While that has been done in the past it still would be neat idea to see their modern selves. 

In addition to cool uses for this maturing art form would be applying this science to the non-famous people throughout history. I'm sure some have been done, I just can't dig any up at the moment. Google image search gets more useless every day. Anyhow...

Here is a link to Mental Floss which has more of these images and links to their parent sights.

Nicolaus Copernicus


  1. This reminds me of Gorky Park (novel by Martin Cruz Smith and film directed by Michael Apted. The book came out in 1981.

    I wonder how much the technology has changed in 30 years. The film had some kind of gross depictions of the work that I wish I didn't remember!

  2. Thanks for the reply, Petrea! I will have to take a look. I love books and movies set with the Cold War as a background and early 80's movies in general. Great historical nuggets to be found. Wow... thinking of that movie just brought a flashback memory of me sitting on the couch watching the TV with Gorky Park coming up next on HBO (with the HBO music). It is amazing how memories work. I'll have to peruse Netflix and see if it is there.

  3. I'm sure it is. It stars William Hurt, Brian Dennehy and Lee Marvin.