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41 Historical Figures, According to AI

Marie Antoinette

Marie Antoinette

Well known for the phrase, "Let them eat cake.", Marie Antoinette was the last Queen of France before the French Revolution. She ascended the throne in 1774. After eight years of marriage, she began having children, but became increasingly unpopular among the people, being accused of being promiscuous, sympathetic to France's enemies, and having illegitimate children. Ultimately, she was executed, and the monarchy was abolished. 

Also known for her lavish spending and lifestyle, most portraits of the royal portray her in fanciful gowns, large hair pieces and hats, and plenty of makeup. The necklines of her dresses are also highly revealing, more than the typical royal. In this AI image, many of those features are not shown—instead, she is given a modest dress, though clearly expensive and royal, and her hair is conservative compared to other portrayals. 

(Overlay via After Martin D'agoty (bella poarch of Jean-Baptiste André Gautier-Dagoty), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Adam and Eve

Adam and Eve

Adam and Eve were the first people to walk this earth, according to the Bible. So what did the first man and woman look like? Most portraits depict them as light-skinned, with an average build. Eve has long, flowing hair, while Adam has what we may consider an average-looking male hairstyle. Oh, and they're naked, of course.

 

AI thinks of these two figures as having darker skin than other portrayals, dark hair, and an average to slender build. Eve is not entirely sans-clothes, sporting a necklace—did she make it, or did Adam make it for her? Based on this analysis, I'd say we had some attractive ancestors!

(Overlay via Bernard Gagnon, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Pocahontas

Pocahontas

When we hear the name Pocahontas, our minds tend to go straight to the animated film from Disney—tall, beautiful, wise, dark-skinned, and long, dark hair. However, this historical figure's story has been romanticized over the years. Her original name was Matoax, which the Native Americans carefully concealed and changed to Pocahontas, out of a superstitious fear. 

There is not a very consistent portrayal of Pocahontas—many of the paintings and sketches of her are very different from each other. Because of this, it's hard to say what any of her distinct features were. AI paints her as a young beauty, similar to the Disney depiction. 

(Overlay via New England Chromo. Lith. Co., Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Muhammad

Muhammad

Muhammad was an Arab religious, social, and political leader. He founded the Islam religion. Born around 570 CE in Mecca, there are, of course, no photographs of him, only paintings and portraits.

Thanks to AI, we get a more realistic view of him. His portrayal here looks to be aligned with the majority of his images—dark skin and facial hair, with a serious look on his face. 

(Overlay via Rashid al-Din ?abib, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare, known for his iconic contributions to literature, has multiple paintings in his likeness. Based on these, we have a pretty decent idea of what the guy looked like. But let's put a more realistic spin on it.

AI technology brings us a clearer image of Shakespeare, looking like he just posed for a picture. He still looks extremely similar to other renditions, so no great surprise here. He may look a bit slimmer here than how he is usually portrayed. 

(Overlay via Wikipedia/Public Domain)

King David of Israel

King David of Israel

With the white-washed Bible, many still imagine King David as a white guy with long, brown hair. However, that just isn't geographically or culturally accurate. 

What happens when you ask AI for the same guy a second time? A completely new portrait of the figure! In this depiction, he still has the same distinct figures as he did for the first AI image. However, this time, he is shown in different royal clothing and is even missing any head adornments...no crown! It also looks like he may have gotten a haircut. 

(Overlay via Gerard van Honthorst, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Aristotle

Aristotle

Aristotle has always been one that is hard to imagine as someone more than a pupil-less, white figure. Why? Because he is most often represented by his marble sculptures. While, of course, there are also paintings of him, his most prominent portrayal is very—statuesque. 

With AI, we're shown a much softer, worn face. He looks a lot more like someone's grandpa than a figure of old. We're able to see so much more character on his face and feel more of a sense of humanity about him. "Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom." I think we know him a tiny bit better now.

(Overlay via Raphael, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Joan of Arc

Joan of Arc

Yes, we've already visited this historical figure, but as you can see, this is an entirely different take on the woman warrior—here, she's pictured as a young girl! Still fitted with armor, she hardly looks old enough to be anywhere near a battle, let alone leading an army.

Usually portrayed with dirty blonde hair, pale skin, and her eyes cast up to the sky, the fact that she is depicted as a brunette here is highly unique. Wonder where AI got that description? The rest of her facial features are strikingly similar to other versions of her image, though this is undoubtedly one of the youngest portrayals of the heroine. 

(Overlay via Albert Lynch, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

In most portraits, Mozart is portrayed with pursed lips and a slightly large nose. Since the majority depict these features, it's safe to assume it's pretty accurate. Maybe he was trying to hide his amusement at being such a significant person?

What we didn't expect was this head of hair! Or should we say wig. Though it's well-known Mozart wore a wig, we never imagined it was as—lofty as we see here. He was certainly ahead of his time. He took his hair care to the next level!

(Overlay via Mozart, Public Domain, via Wikipedia)

Alexander the Great

Alexander the Great

Honestly, in most of the paintings and portraits, Alexander the Great is this young, heroic, handsome fellow. To be given such a title and have such significant achievements, he had to have been quite the man. We were not disappointed.

AI has delivered us an intimate look at the historic figure, and we can't take our eyes off of him. Born in 356 BC, king of Macedonia—he was obviously the world's sexiest man at one point. Too bad People magazine wasn't around at the time. 

(Overlay via Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Mary Magdalene

Mary Magdalene

Mary Magdalene, sometimes called Mary of Magdala, was a woman who traveled with Jesus as one of his followers. She is one of the witnesses of his crucifixion and resurrection. She's mentioned by name more than most of the apostles and more than any other woman in the gospels, besides Jesus's family. 

Like much of the Bible, she's yet another Biblical figure that is shown as being fair-complected with long, red hair. The red hair is a Western portrayal meant to communicate sinful lustiness. But as you can see here, she is darker-complected—and though her hair is covered, it's safe to assume it's a dark brunette. 

(Overlay via Giampietrino, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

King Solomon

King Solomon

King Solomon is another Biblical figure who—surprise!—is depicted as an old white guy with a long, gray-white beard, a crown always on his head, and wearing regal clothing with a scepter. He was a monarch of ancient Israel and the son of King David. It's said that in a dream, God offered him anything he wished for as long as he chose to continue to live righteously, and Solomon wished for great wisdom to govern his nation. 

In this AI rendition, King Solomon seems to be much more accurate for his geographical location. He is dark-skinned, has dark facial hair, and has an intense look on his face—fitting for a king. AI kept his regal clothes and crown. Which King Solomon do you think is more accurate?

(Overlay via 18 century icon painter, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Christopher Columbus

Christopher Columbus

Ah, Christopher Columbus, the Italian explorer who believed he had discovered "The New World". While he has a holiday to commemorate his great achievements, in recent decades, there have been protests against celebrating because they led to the transatlantic slave trade and the deaths of millions from murder and disease. 

We've all seen his portraits and have a good idea of what Columbus probably looked like. According to AI, it seems like his features are much sharper. He has a more defined jawline and nose. I wonder what he's looking at?

(Overlay via Christopher Columbus, Public Domain, via Wikipedia)

King Arthur

King Arthur

King Arthur is a man who has a large variety of interpretations of how he appeared. Between the sketches, paintings, and movie adaptations, this man's looks are extremely versatile! It seems there is no one solid idea of what he actually looked like. 

That's where our handy-dandy AI technology really comes to the rescue. Here, we see King Arthur in all his medieval glory. It seems his likeness here certainly lends itself to several tapestries showing Arthur in a coat of arms. He has a long slim face with lighter-colored hair. 

(Overlay via Unknown authorUnknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Plato

Plato

Another old philosopher portrayed by sculpture, Plato eludes a solid image of what he really looked like. Though he has many notable theories that some spend their lives studying and elaborating on, we still only have theories about the smaller details of his appearance. 

Our good old AI says, yes, he was an eternally old man with an extremely sharp nose. Like most of his counterparts in the day, he also sported long hair and a beard. Again, he looks to be someone's grandpa, not a guy born 2500 years ago. 

(Overlay via Raphael, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Ludwig van Beethoven

Ludwig van Beethoven

For some reason, when I try to picture Beethoven, I imagine an angry expression with furrowed eyebrows and wild hair. Maybe it's because he liked his music loud. Or maybe it's because every portrait I've seen of him includes this angry disposition. 

AI gives us a bit of a softer image. He certainly still looks the same as in his portraits, but this more realistic rendition is giving off rockstar vibes. The hair, the clothes, the overall look—Beethoven would fit in just fine in today's day and age!

(Overlay via Beethoven, Public Domain, via Wikipedia)

Sacagawea

Sacagawea

Sacagawea was a Lemhi Shoshone woman who helped the Lewis and Clark expedition in exploring the Louisiana Territory. She traveled thousands of miles with the expedition, helping to establish cultural contacts with Native American people and contributing to the expedition's knowledge of natural history in different regions. 

Commonly depicted with long, dark hair split into two braids and walking staff in hand, Sacagawea's overall image is pretty consistent throughout her many portrayals. In this AI image, she is also shown with the double braids, traditional clothing, and strong facial features similar to other depictions. 

(Overlay via Edgar Samuel Paxson, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Abraham

Abraham

Abraham is the common Hebrew patriarch of the Abrahamic religions, including Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. He's known for the depth of his faith and unquestioning obedience to God—even to the extent of sacrificing his son Isaac. Thankfully, he is not asked to sacrifice his son in the end, a ram is substituted. 

Abraham is commonly depicted as an old man with a long white beard and long white hair to match. AI seems to think of him as an old man with white facial hair who likes to keep it trimmed up. Clothing-wise, AI and other portrayals are consistent—he is shown wearing robes and head coverings.

(Overlay via Guercino, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Leonardo da Vinci

Leonardo da Vinci

Ah, the creator of the Mona Lisa...Leonardo da Vinci has some pretty strong portraits out there, and I'm not just talking about his art. There are many paintings and sketches of the man himself and they seem pretty consistent with each other. 

As usual, the AI just adds a touch of realism to any previous rendition. Here, we see him from straight on, with him looking directly at us—eerily realistic! He still has the same furrowed brow and pointed nose we see in other images of the artist. 

(Overlay via Attributed to Barthemely d'Francesco Melzi, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Genghis Khan

Genghis Khan

Ghengis Khan was a powerful ruler best known for unifying a large portion of Mongolian land. This empire was able to challenge the Jin dynasty in China! In fact, the Mongol Empire is recognized as being the largest contiguous land empire in history.

All of that being said, many of the man's portraits surely don't do him justice. Many depict him as looking like a peaceful, laid-back kind of guy instead of the fearsome conqueror that he was. In this image, you can see his intensity and greatness. 

(Overlay via National Palace Museum, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Johann Sebastian Bach

Johann Sebastian Bach

Johann Sebastian Bach is one of the greatest composers in history. In every portrait and painting, he is shown with a furrowed brow and an extremely curly wig.

The AI program produced a more natural-looking image, consistent with the stern expression, but gave him wavy silver hair. It's also a bit longer than what other portraits portray. Also, is it just me, or does he look a bit slimmer here?

(Overlay via Elias Gottlob Haussmann, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

David, King of Israel

David, King of Israel

With the white-washed Bible, many still imagine King David as a white guy with long, brown hair. However, that just isn't geographically or culturally accurate. 

With AI, we can see a much more accurate depiction of what King David probably looked like. He is wearing culturally appropriate clothing and is much more on target appearance-wise for his geographic location. I give you—King David!

(Overlay via Gerard van Honthorst, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Constantine the Great

Constantine the Great

For this 306 AD Roman emperor, we have sculptures, paintings, and sketches. A few facial characteristics seem to be constant in all of his depictions. Large eyes, bags under the eyes, and a cleft chin. 

In the AI portrait, we still have these characteristics, though the cleft chin has lost its dimple. And while a few key features are the same, there's a great variety between the several images you can find of Constantine. We're going to stick to this interpretation!

(Overlay via Camille King from Toronto, Canada, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Jesus

Jesus

I know, probably not what you expected! Certainly not the face that's hanging up in churches or your grandma's house. But according to AI, Jesus probably looked more like this than your hippie neighbor. 

I mean, it makes sense. For one, just think about where he was born. Do you really think he came out with pale, white skin? Also, this AI program was fed descriptions of Jesus taken from the Bible, so, who are we to argue with a non-biased technology? I give you, Jesus. 

(Overlay via Wikipedia/Public Domain)

Socrates

Socrates

Based on the many statues, sketches, and paintings of Socrates, the man had a very distinct look about him. From his close-set eyes to his upturned nose to his wavy hair and beard, the many depictions of him through a variety of media are extremely consistent. 

This is why I find the AI portrayal so interesting! He still looks similar to previous images, but here, we see his eyes are an average distance apart, his hair and beard are not wavy, and even his nose is quite different. This is definitely a new take on the ancient philosopher!

(Overlay via Sting, CC BY-SA 2.5, via Wikimedia Commons)

Gautama Buddha

Gautama Buddha

When it comes to Buddha, the first thing that comes to mind are the golden statues. But if we look past that, to the paintings of him, we often see him cross-legged, eyes closed, with a serene look on his face. 

In this AI rendition, we see his eyes open, somewhat of a smile on his face, and a much more detailed account of his features. It's very interesting to see the program still found a way to incorporate the gold that is so often associated with Buddha, even if it's just as an aura around his face!

(Overlay via Tevaprapas Makklay, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Vincent van Gogh

Vincent van Gogh

It's easy to see what a historical figure looked like when the person has multiple self-portraits—and is an artist! With Vincent van Gogh, we have multiple paintings of him and see a very strong pattern throughout each rendition. A very angular face, red hair, prominent cheek bones, and more.

AI agrees, though it doesn't take these details quite to the extreme we see in the paintings. His face here is much less angular, his cheekbones don't exactly stand out, but his nose is spot on. I think it would have been fitting to see a little bit of a swirly, starry night in the background here!

(Overlay via Vincent van Gogh, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Michelangelo

Michelangelo

Michelangelo, the renowned Italian sculptor, painter, architect, poet, etc., was a major player during the Renaissance. We see many paintings of the man and have a good idea of what he looked like. 

AI made him older than the bulk of his portraits. We still see many of the same characteristics, including his ears, his eyebrows, and the lines on his face. If we were to see more paintings of when he was old, I guarantee this is what he would look like!

(Overlay via Attributed to Daniele da Volterra, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Ali, Founder of Sufism

Ali, Founder of Sufism

As one of the central figures in Shia Islam, Ali is widely revered and honored by Muslims. Ruling in 656 until his assassination in 661, he was extremely knowledgeable in religious matters. There are not many images of him that one can find, so creating a new image is certainly worthwhile. 

AI created a youthful rendition of the leader, complete with kind eyes, a bit of a smile, and striking dark hair. His eyebrows are not as arched as they appear in other paintings, giving him a bit of a softer look. 

(Overlay via Kamal Al-Din Gazurgahi, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Joan of Arc

Joan of Arc

Joan of Arc has many paintings, stained glass windows, and sketches. She is usually seen with dirty blonde hair, pale skin, and looking up towards the sky. She is also usually shown in her armor, not only a saint but a defender. 

Here, we see her with her eyes cast up, a covering on her head, and still clad in armor. Compared to the art we see from the 1400s, this extremely realistic rendition lends itself to imagining her on horseback, playing her part in the siege of Orléans. 

(Overlay via Archives nationales, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Cleopatra

Cleopatra

Cleopatra is a historical figure that can be seen in multiple movies, paintings, sculptures, and more. She's usually portrayed as a sultry beauty, with heavy makeup and revealing clothes. However, several modern historians have characterized her as less than exceptionally attractive. However, she was extremely charming, persuasive, and stimulating. 

If we look at this AI image, the program definitely took the "seductress" description to heart, though this is still a completely new look for Cleopatra. She appears to be taller and smaller-framed than in other depictions. She also isn't wearing heavy eye makeup that is synonymous with the ancient Egyptian ruler. 

(Overlay via Ángel M. Felicísimo from Mérida, España, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Julius Caesar

Julius Caesar

Another man remembered in marble, Julius Caesar has had multiple portrayals of him through multiple types of media. Let's see what the ruler of the Roman empire looks like according to AI. 

He looks older, and definitely a little more stressed out than in other portrayals. Is it because AI knows his whole story and what would eventually go down? I feel like that was definitely a component when creating this image. "Veni, vidi, vici."

(Overlay via Unknown authorUnknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Nero

Nero

Combing through the 54 AD Roman emperor's images, the sculptures, paintings, and sketches all have some prominent features in common. These include a unique, unflattering sideburn/beard combo and downturned, pursed lips.

The AI program depicts him as an older man than we see in the majority of his portrayals. This seems to have helped his looks quite a bit, though his hair still looks a bit bizarre. AI definitely did him a solid here. 

(Overlay via Glyptothek, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Martin Luther

Martin Luther

Martin Luther was a German priest, theologian, author, and hymn writer in the 1500s. In each of his portraits, there is not much variance in any of his features—the artists had him down pat!

This may be the most similar-looking AI image on the list. There's not much difference between other images you see of Martin Luther versus the image here. Besides giving him a slightly slimmer face and, of course, adding finer, more realistic details, this portrayal is what you can expect when researching this figure. 

(Overlay via Lucas Cranach the Elder, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Nefertiti

Nefertiti

Nefertiti's looks are almost solely based on the famous bust believed to have been crafted in 1345 BCE. Because of this iconic bust, Nefertiti has become one of the most famous women of the ancient world and an icon of feminine beauty. It depicts slim, delicate features with a large crown.

In the AI depiction, we see the same delicate features and what we can assume to be her iconic crown. The image here is strikingly similar to the renowned bust—nothing of significant difference to note. It's amazing how we can see someone so clearly who lived so long ago!

(Overlay via Philip Pikart, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikipedia)

Vlad the Impaler

Vlad the Impaler

With such an image-evoking title, Vlad the Impaler was a vicious ruler in the 1400s who, you guessed it, was well-known for torturing his foes in a multitude of ways, one of his favorites being impaling. This terrifying figure also inspired the tale of Count Dracula. 

In many paintings, he is shown with large eyes, a pointed nose, and long, dark hair. Based on the rest of his images, this AI rendition is scarily accurate. The exaggerated pale skin is no doubt traced from his Dracula connections—vampires must be pale!

(Overlay via Public domain via Wikipedia)

William the Conqueror

William the Conqueror

From tapestries to paintings to monuments, there is no shortage of likenesses of William the Conqueror. However, when it comes to details, there isn't much consistency. 

While his nose seems similar—with a very prominent bridge—the rest of his characteristics are new. What stands out in this AI image is his eyebrow/brow structure. He still looks like a man who could achieve his title—just look at the way he stares back at you.

(Overlay via National Portrait Gallery, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Galileo Galilei

Galileo Galilei

A brilliant Italian astronomer, physicist, and engineer, Galileo Galilei is an extremely prominent historical figure. When we look through his many paintings and portraits, we see some variance in his appearance—we know some characteristics may be out of place.

However, this AI rendition certainly captures some of his key features. He definitely had a receding hairline with a wrinkled forehead. His beard is also consistent throughout all of his images.

The AI guy is just a little easier to imagine looking at the stars through a telescope than what we might find in a textbook. This created image looks ready to produce new theories and observe more of the universe!

(Overlay via Justus Sustermans, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Moses

Moses

Versions of Moses have been depicted for quite some time. From portraits to movies to animations to books, Moses is a popular figure! Considered the most important prophet in Judaism and one of the most important prophets in Christianity, Islam, and other faiths, he's known for the plagues in Egypt, parting the Red Sea, and receiving the Ten Commandments straight from God. 

Usually seen as an old man with a long, gray beard and a kind of wild head of hair with an expression to match, the AI image shows us a slightly different take. Here, we see him not only with a long white beard and long white hair, he's also quite bald on top. That's a bold take on the prophet!

(Overlay via Guido Reni, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Napoleon

Napoleon

There's probably no surprise here—Napoleon looks very similar to how he's always been depicted. The dark hair, the facial features...this significant figure in history is definitely accurate physical features wise. 

Of course, he's quite a bit more recent compared to Jesus. We have more paintings and portrayals of him to help AI along. The great thing about this newly generated image is the fact that it's so clear and realistic! 

(Overlay via Wikipedia/Public Domain)

Jesus

Jesus

We started with a Jesus slide, we'll end with a Jesus slide. Again, AI gave us a very different version the second time around—closer to what many versions portray him as. With lighter skin, but not white, and long, flowing dark hair and facial hair, this is probably the version many people today envision him as. 

With a historical figure as prominent as Jesus, you would think we would have his description solidified a little more at this point—however, the fact that he lived so long ago and we only have so many descriptions to go off of, it can be hard to narrow his features down to incredibly accurate details. So, for now, we give you AI Jesus. 

(Overlay via Heinrich Hofmann, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)