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Is This What Alexander the Great Really Looked Like?

The true face of Alexander? Credit: Bas Uterwijk/Instagram

Dutch photographer and digital artist Bas Uterwijk has been shining a light on what iconic figures from history might have looked like in real life.

His latest creation is Alexander the Great, the king of the ancient Greek kingdom of Macedon, who famously conquered most of the known world in his time.

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“I am not afraid of an army of Lions led by a sheep; I am afraid of an army of sheep led by a lion” Alexander the Great (356BC) #artbreeder #stylegan2 #artificialintelligence #neuralnetworks #neuarlart #neuralartwork #cgi #machinelearning #alexanderthegreat #macedonia #history

A post shared by Bas Uterwijk (@ganbrood) on

By using various digital manipulation tools, Uterwijk is able to create photorealistic portraits of famous artists, leaders, mummies, philosophical thinkers, and even the models for paintings. Below is his reconstruction of the face of Jesus.

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I don’t think I have posted this version on Instagram so for everyone interested here is a little info on the process of constructing it: I have been a professional photographer for the last 14 years but I have a background in Computer Generated images and Special Effects. A little over a year ago I stumbled upon the #artificialintelligence #Artbreeder software (formerly Ganbreeder) which utilizes a neural network trained on photographs and paintings of thousands human faces. This application makes it possible to combine multiple sources of faces and merge them in a synthesized version, guided by the artistic decisions of the user. I use it to create historical and fictional characters. When I was playing around with several cultural depictions of Jesus of Nazareth of Byzantine and Renaissance origin including Leonardo da Vinci’s “Salvator Mundi”, and the Turin Shroud. Tweaking the ethnicity to a more convincing Middle-Eastern face. I was happy with the result as a representation of a collective cultural depiction but at the same time I felt it lacked any historical accuracy. So I changed the hair and beard to a more credible length and style for the time and region and I brought in elements found in some #Fayum mummy portraits, pushing the renaissance art to the background. The result is a artistic impression of how this man could have looked, more than it is a scientific search for an exact likeness.

A post shared by Bas Uterwijk (@ganbrood) on

Based in Amsterdam, Uterwijk has a background in computer graphics, 3D animation, and special effects. He uses a well-known image of each subject to transform them into a photographic portrait.

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