Sunday, January 14, 2007

Scientists recreate Dante's face

"Meet Dante. Not the best looking man in the world, but certainly better-looking than he has often been depicted in famous paintings.

Scientists believe this face is the closest match to the poet's skull found in his tomb. And for Dante scholars it has thrown up a few surprises. They always imagined him to have a long aquiline nose. But the team from the University of Bologna, who remodelled this face, believe it was bent and crooked. He looks as if he had been punched.

"We all had our ideas of what Dante looked like," said Professor Giorgio Gruppioni, the anthropologist behind the project.

"But if this is right, it shows his face was quite different from what we had envisaged."

'Psychological renditions'

The popular conception of what Dante looked like came from classical portraits. Professor Gruppioni said most were done by Renaissance artists after he had died. They are what he calls "psychological renditions" - impressions artists had formed of Dante, from his work they had read. A number of death masks also exist but historians believe these, too, were sculpted after his death."

I saw a sculpture of Dante in the piazza outside of the Uffitzi Gallery in Florence when I visited Italy a couple of years ago. I think it was a modern sculpture but it didn't look all that different from the image above.