Home Tech Meet the man who created our vision of hell: Scientists reconstruct the face of Dante for the first time in more than 700 years

Meet the man who created our vision of hell: Scientists reconstruct the face of Dante for the first time in more than 700 years

by Elijah
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Dante Alighieri became an icon of Western literature with his writings, and his masterpiece was the Divine Comedy, which described a journey to heaven, hell, and purgatory.

The man who created our vision of hell can be seen for the first time in more than 700 years after scientists reconstructed his face using his skull.

Dante Alighieri became an icon of Western literature with his writings, and his masterpiece was the Divine Comedy, which described a journey to heaven, hell, and purgatory.

His description of hell is now the standard: a nine-circled hell where the worst offenders are confined to the deepest confines and sinners receive ironic punishments for their misdeeds.

However, despite his enduring legacy, the artist’s true face is shrouded in mystery, and the most popular paintings in his likeness were created long after his death.

Now, a new study has revealed what the man himself looked like, using Dante’s skull to digitally recreate the appearance of the literary icon.

Dante Alighieri became an icon of Western literature with his writings, and his masterpiece was the Divine Comedy, which described a journey to heaven, hell, and purgatory.

A new study has revealed what the man himself looked like, using Dante's skull to digitally recreate the appearance of the literary icon.

A new study has revealed what the man himself looked like, using Dante's skull to digitally recreate the appearance of the literary icon.

The man who created our vision of hell can be seen for the first time in more than 700 years after scientists reconstructed his face using his skull.

His description of hell is now the norm: a nine-circle hell where the worst offenders are confined to the deepest confines and sinners receive ironic punishments for their misdeeds.

His description of hell is now the norm: a nine-circle hell where the worst offenders are confined to the deepest confines and sinners receive ironic punishments for their misdeeds.

His description of hell is now the norm: a nine-circle hell where the worst offenders are confined to the deepest confines and sinners receive ironic punishments for their misdeeds.

Brazilian graphic expert Cicero Moraes, lead author of the study, described why traditional representations of the poet fell short.

He said: ‘Most are based on the information contained in the biography of Dante composed by the writer Boccaccio.

‘That is to say, he was an individual of medium height, somewhat stooped, with a long face, an aquiline nose and eyes larger than small.

‘However, Boccaccio did not know Dante personally and collected reports from people close to the poet and who lived with him.

“All approaches seem to follow Boccaccio’s descriptions, but we tried to do strictly what the bones indicate.”

The authors began by digitally recreating the Italian poet’s skull, using an analysis of his bones from 1921, reinforced with data from a 2007 article about his face.

Moraes said: ‘Then we proceeded with the facial approach.

‘It consists of making a series of projections based on statistical data extracted from tomography and ultrasound analysis, and crossing them with the anatomical deformation.’

The authors began by digitally recreating the Italian poet's skull, using an analysis of his bones from 1921, reinforced with data from a 2007 article about his face.

The authors began by digitally recreating the Italian poet's skull, using an analysis of his bones from 1921, reinforced with data from a 2007 article about his face.

The authors began by digitally recreating the Italian poet’s skull, using an analysis of his bones from 1921, reinforced with data from a 2007 article about his face.

The project revealed that Dante, often hailed as the father of the Italian language, had a larger than average skull.

The project revealed that Dante, often hailed as the father of the Italian language, had a larger than average skull.

The project revealed that Dante, often hailed as the father of the Italian language, had a larger than average skull.

Anatomical deformation occurs when the digitized face of a living donor is deformed until it fits the skull in question, revealing “a face compatible with that of the poet in life,” Moraes said.

He continued: ‘Two sets of images were generated, one with objective focus, greyscale, without hair and with eyes closed.

‘And another in color and with subjective elements, such as the color of the eyes, skin and clothing, according to the best-known images.’

Dante was unfortunately exiled from his native Florence in 1302 and died in Ravenna in 1321.

Moraes said the face they had created revealed that of a tormented man.

“It shows a brilliant man, but bitter by exile,” he said.

The project also revealed that Dante, often hailed as the father of the Italian language, had a larger than average skull.

Mr Moraes said: “There is a big debate about whether a larger brain is endowed with greater intelligence.

‘Even if we ignore this approach, it is a fact that Dante’s work was that of a genius.

This photo shows an 1850 depiction of Dante (seen with a red hood) visiting Hell, by William-Adolphe Bouguereau.

This photo shows an 1850 depiction of Dante (seen with a red hood) visiting Hell, by William-Adolphe Bouguereau.

This photo shows an 1850 depiction of Dante (seen with a red hood) visiting Hell, by William-Adolphe Bouguereau.

“Bringing the approximation of Dante’s face is, in a way, a tribute to my own family history,” said the artist.

“It was full of universality that influenced not only world literature, but also the organization of a language and, perhaps exaggerating a little, the creation of an entire nation.”

He continued: ‘I felt very honored to work on this; My great-grandparents were Italian and my mother spoke a language from the region until she was 17 years old.

“Bringing Dante’s face closer is, in a way, an homage to my own family history.”

Cicero and his co-author, Thiago Beaini, of the Federal University of Uberlândia, published their study in the 3D computer graphics journal OrtogOnLineMag.

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