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March 1, 2008

The face of Bach


"Experts have digitally rebuilt the face of 18th-century German composer Johann Sebastian Bach."

He is pictured above and below.


Here is Sylvia Westall's February 29, 2008 Reuters report.

    Museum unveils new face of Bach

    Updated portrait created using excavated skull

    Experts have digitally rebuilt the face of 18th-century German composer Johann Sebastian Bach — and say the results may surprise his fans.

    Using his bones and computer modelling, they have come up with an image of a thick-set man with closely shorn white hair.

    The new Bach face, the creation of Scottish forensic anthropologist Caroline Wilkinson, will go on display at the Bachhaus Museum in the eastern German town of Eisenach, Bach's birthplace, next month.

    Eighteenth-century portraits show him very differently.

    "For most people, Bach is an old man in a wig. It is a stylized image — we have no realistic portrait of him," said Joerg Hansen, managing director of the museum.

    "We know he was a physical man, that he danced, that he stamped his feet when he played, that he sang.

    "He was a very dynamic man — with this reconstruction, you can see it."

    Bach's bones were excavated in 1894 and sculptors first used them to help create a bust in 1908.

    But it was mainly based on a portrait of the composer, and contemporary critics said it was so inaccurate that it might as well have been the composer Handel.

    "It's not really that important to know what he looked like. We love Bach through his music — that is why people come to the museum — but they are also interested in the man," Hansen said.



Here is yesterday's press release from the University of Dundee, where Dr. Wilkinson leads the Centre for Forensic and Medical Art, about the project.

    Building the face of Bach

    Forensic artists at the University of Dundee have recreated the face of Johan Sebastian Bach, one of the world’s greatest composers.

    The Centre for Forensic and Medical Art at Dundee, led by Dr Caroline Wilkinson, was commissioned by the Bachhaus Museum in Germany to recreate the face of Bach, who only once sat for a painted portrait in his lifetime.

    Dr Wilkinson and her team have considerable expertise in the area of facial reconstruction and have worked on everything from criminal investigations to historical projects. In this case they were provided with a bronze cast of Bach’s skull from the Bachhaus Museum and asked if they could then `build’ the composer’s face from this.

    "We carried out a laser scan of the skull which allowed us to recreate the musculature and skin of the face on our computer system," explained Dr Wilkinson. "By assessing the bone structure we can determine facial morphology and produce an accurate picture of his facial appearance."

    After that other sources were used to gather information which allowed the team of Dr Wilkinson and colleagues Caroline Needham, Dr Chris Rynn and Janice Aitken to start fleshing out the face.

    "The museum provided us with a copy of the authentic portrait of Bach and from that Janice was able to start texturing of the face," said Dr Wilkinson. "There were also written contemporary documents that described his eye problems causing swollen eyelids."

    "This is really the most complete face that can be built from the available reliable information. As far as we can ascertain, this is how Bach would have looked."

    The newly-created face of Bach will go on display at the Bachhaus museum in the eastern German town of Eisenach, Bach's birthplace, next month.

    The Centre for Forensic and Medical Art is a dynamic collaboration at the University of Dundee between the College of Life Sciences and Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design. Forging a link between these two disciplines, the Centre's work has widespread applications, including human identification, archaeological investigation, medical illustration and museum & media exhibition.

    The Centre is perhaps most well known for work in facial reconstruction, the process of rebuilding a face from the skull, both to aid forensic identification and archaeological investigation.

    Staff members are trained in a range of art skills from the traditional to state-of-the-art technologies. These include the application of virtual reality sculpture systems for facial reconstruction. The Centre provides forensic and medical art services both in-house and to the wider community.



More photos here.

March 1, 2008 at 04:01 PM | Permalink


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That is NOT Bach!

Posted by: Hola | Nov 30, 2009 5:03:58 PM

This is one of the modern faces of Bach (I'll admit he was good but always loved Mozart): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QmUmhFyic9A

Posted by: PerhapsCreativeEnough | Mar 1, 2008 11:44:32 PM

Wilkinson's color choices are bizarre. Her reconstruction gives Bach brown skin, brown eyes, and black eyebrows, when portraits indicate Bach had a fair to medium complexion, brown or blond eyebrows, and predominantly blue eyes. Her choice is inexplicable, given that she acknowledges referring to the Haussmann portrait for other details (and, in fact, the skull she is working from was authenticated based on Haussmann). Even if Bach's pigmentation were unknown, her choice would still be bizarre, given Bach's birthplace and ancestry. That coloring is not typical in Bavaria, much less Thuringia.

Posted by: n | Mar 1, 2008 10:16:24 PM

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