True face of King Henry VII brought to life by digital reconstruction


Graphic artist Matt Loughrey produced this image of the deceased king from Henry VII’s death mask, which was cast in 1509. (Matt Loughrey/mycolorfulpast.com)

This is the face of King Henry VII as he would have looked when he was alive.

The astonishing digital reconstruction has been made using the ancient king’s death mask.

It shows the gaunt, sombre face of the man who started Britain’s Tudor dynasty when he assumed the throne in 1485.

Henry ruled until 1509 when his son, Henry VIII, took over the throne. It was customary in those days for wax masks to be made of important people in order to preserve their likeness after they died.

Graphic artist Matt Loughrey from My Colourful Past used Henry VII’s death mask and added natural colours and details to make it look more lifelike.

The death mask of King Henry VII (Matt Loughrey/mycolorfulpast.com)

For example, Henry VII is often pictured clean-shaven, but Loughrey added a beard which was customary at the time.

‘Death masks are like a conduit to another time — they’re like a wormhole,’ Loughrey told Livescience.

‘Photography’s been around for a very short time, but there’s technology in place here that can take us back thousands of years, to see faces we’ve only imagined.’

Loughrey started the project with a high resolution picture of the king’s death mask and then used software to map the 2D picture into a 3D image. The process is called photogrammetry and it allowed the artist to create a digital model of the dead monarch’s face.

Henry VII as most people know him (Wikimedia)

From there, he was able to add the colours – like skin tones and eye pigmentation – and lighting to make the face look realistic. Finally, he added facial markings and hair through ‘manual input and clever algorithms.’

‘We’ll never truly know if he was bearded or not,’ Loughrey said. ‘But considering the trends of the era, I did him with a beard, too.’

After adding colour and lighting, Loughrey added details like skin imperfections and hair (Matt Loughrey/mycolorfulpast.com)
King Henry VII is often pictured without a beard (Matt Loughrey/mycolorfulpast.com)

Loughrey has also used this technique to bring to life the death masks of other historical figures such as Mary Queen of Scots and Oliver Cromwell.





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