Photoreal Roman Emperor Project
54 Machine-learning assisted portraits
Using the neural-net tool Artbreeder, Photoshop and historical references, I have created photoreal portraits of Roman Emperors.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)
The Principate — Notes and References
- [Pt I] 27 BC–68 AD: Julio-Claudian dynasty (Augustus; Tiberius; Caligula; Claudius; Nero)
- [Pt II] 68–96: Year of the Four Emperors and Flavian dynasty (Galba; Otho; Vitellius; Vespasian; Titus; Domitian)
- [Pt III] 96–192: Nerva–Antonine dynasty (Nerva; Trajan; Hadrian; Antoninus Pius; Lucius Verus; Marcus Aurelius; Commodus; Pertinax; Didius Julianus; Septimius Severus; Caracalla; Geta; Macrinus; Diadumenian; Elagabalus; Severus Alexander)
- [Pt IV] 235–285: Gordian dynasty and Crisis of the Third Century (Maximinus Thrax; Gordian I; Gordian II; Pupienus; Balbinus; Gordian III; Philip the Arab; Philip II; Decius; Herennius Etruscus; Hostilian; Trebonianus Gallus; Volusianus; Aemilian; Valerian; Gallienus; Saloninus; Claudius Gothicus; Quintillus; Aurelian; Ulpia Severina; Tacitus; Florianus; Probus; Carus; Carinus; Numerian)
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.
ABOUT THE PRINT
The working file for this print is enormous: 340 dpi at 24x36". Available in English, Spanish, Italian, Latin, Polish and Russian.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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.