Skip to comments.Scientists Recreate (Less Ugly) Face Of Dante
Posted on 01/11/2007 6:56:50 PM PST by blam
Scientists recreate (less ugly) face of Dante
By Malcolm Moore in Florence
Last Updated: 2:26am GMT 12/01/2007
Dante Alighieri did not, after all, have bulging eyes or a pointed chin but his enormous nose was true to life, according to scientists who have created a replica of the poet's face by measuring the remains of his skull.
The 3D reconstruction, based on skull measurements, alongside Botticelli's portrait of Dante Alighieri
The researchers at the University of Bologna have pieced together the "true face" of Florence's favourite son and discovered that it was very different from the portraits of him by the artists Botticelli, Raphael and Giotto.
Giovanni Boccaccio, the Italian author who was eight years old when Dante died in 1321, described the poet as having "a long face, an aquiline nose, eyes that are large rather than small, a great jaw, and a lower lip that was larger than the upper".
He added: "His colour was brown, his hair and beard thick, dark and curly and his expression ever melancholy and pensive."
However, the new three-dimensional recreation of Dante's face, revealed yesterday, has a wide forehead and a normal, if robust, chin. The features are softer, and the poet's large nose seems slightly more in proportion.
"He was not a handsome man," said La Repubblica newspaper. "That much is true. But he was much less ugly than we believed. The nose is without doubt big and important, but it was not aquiline. The classical profile of Dante has been demolished."
Prof Giorgio Gruppioni, an anthropologist who led the research, said: "We have restored Dante's humanity. He has become one of us again. The portraits wanted to show something of the spirit of the poetry in his features. They were more sentimental than real." The reconstruction took him and two colleagues around a year to complete, he added.
Prof Francesco Mallegni, of the University of Pisa, also worked on the project. He is famed for his reconstructions of Giotto and Count Ugolino della Gherardesca, who allegedly ate his two sons and his grandsons while in prison.
The team worked from measurements and photographs of Dante's bones collected by Fabio Frassetto, a professor at Bologna University in the 1920s who was given permission to open up his grave in Ravenna.
Although Prof Frassetto was not allowed to make a cast of the skull, he did create a replica from his measurements. "Frassetto made hundreds of measurements, and the skull is accurate to the millimetre," said Prof Gruppioni.
Working from that replica, the team modelled Dante's jaw using a three-dimensional computer imaging tool. Then, with the help of a forensic scientist and a sculptor, they recreated the face and calculated the ratio of fat to muscle in the poet's features.
"This is the closest we will ever get to seeing the real Dante's face," said Prof Gruppioni.
Although the most famous portraits of Dante are exaggerated, a set of frescoes, discovered in Florence three years ago, show a closer likeness of the poet. They were painted just 50 years or so after the poet's death and have now been opened up to the public in the Palazzo dell'Arte dei Giudici e Notai.
"Those pictures show him with a smaller and straighter nose," said Prof Gruppioni.
"He was not a handsome man," said La Repubblica newspaper. "That much is true. But he was much less ugly than we believed.
Now that's a funny line. At least they won't end up covered in sh!t in the eighth circle of hell for flattery.
won't show the picture - look up "Anthony Head" the actor
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Photo credit: telegraph.co.uk
When Dante's skull was turned back into a face, researchers were surprised to see that he differed from traditional depictions of the man. Usually, he is shown with a stern or severe expression, but when his features were revealed through forensic efforts, Dante had a softer gaze and looked a whole lot friendlier. However, his famously hooked nose was spot-on. Among other difficulties, Dante suffered the death of his beloved Beatrice and banishment from Florence in 1302 for opposing Pope Boniface VIII. His actual bones remain hidden by Italian monks who refused scientists access to them. Dante's face was recreated using a replica skull.
10 Amazing Facial Reconstructions Of Ancient Skulls | Jana Louise Smit | August 18, 2016
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