Second Edition (v2.1): Roman Emperors of The Principate [Shown here at 2000x1337 pixels. Poster print file over 12,000 x 8,000]

Photoreal Roman Emperor Project

54 Machine-learning assisted portraits

Daniel Voshart
3 min readJul 24, 2020


Using the neural-net tool Artbreeder, Photoshop and historical references, I have created photoreal portraits of Roman Emperors. For this project, I have transformed, or restored (cracks, noses, ears etc.) 800 images of busts to make the 54 emperors of The Principate (27 BC to 285 AD).

Update Sept 10th: New print available here (version 2) in a choice of languages. (Version 1: Gold / red marble, limited edition print sold out)

Roman emperors: Augustus and Maximinus Thrax
Sold Out: First Edition print of Roman Emperors of The Principate. The red marble frame was an homage to feigned marble ovals in Peter Raul Reuben’s Roman portrait series.

The Principate — Notes and References

The main technology behind Artbreeder is it’s generative adversarial network (GAN). Some call it Artificial Intelligence but it is more accurately described as Machine Learning.

Artistic interpretations are, by their nature, more art than science but I’ve made an effort to cross-reference their appearance (hair, eyes, ethnicity etc.) to historical texts and coinage. I’ve striven to age them according to the year of death — their appearance prior to any major illness.

My goal was not to romanticize emperors or make them seem heroic. In choosing bust / sculptures, my approach was to favor the bust that was made when the emperor was alive. Otherwise, I favored the bust made with the greatest craftsmanship and where the emperor was stereotypically uglier — my pet theory being that artists were likely trying to flatter their subjects.

Some emperors (latter dynasties, short reigns) did not have surviving busts. For this, I researched multiple coin depictions, family tree and birthplaces. Sometimes I created my own composites.


The working file for this print is enormous: 340 dpi at 24x36". Available in English, Spanish, Italian, Latin, Polish and Russian.

Chiseled font and faux-marble detail of new print. (Maximinus Thrax)


Daniel Voshart is a designer from Canada. First edition print was a quarantine project. Second edition print made possible by the overwhelming support and important critical feedback to the first print.