Terrifying new facial reconstruction of Robespierre

Philippe Charlier, forensic pathologist and indefatigable researcher of historical medical conundrums, and Philippe Froesch, facial reconstruction specialist with Visual Forensic in Barcelona, Spain, have created an intense facial reconstruction of French Revolutionary leader Maximilien de Robespierre. The main source for the image is a plaster copy of a death mask Madame Tussaud claimed* to have made from his decapitated head after he was guillotined on July 28th, 1794.

Froesch used a hand-held scanner to create a 3D computer model of the face. He then added details to the smooth-faced model, like the more than 100 pockmarks caused by a bad case of smallpox he suffered 30 years before his death when he was a boy of six. The eyes were a particular challenge because the closed eyelids didn’t leave an impression in the plaster so they were drawn on. Using an FBI technique that allowed him to calculate the eye size and position from marks left on the mask by the corneas, he was able to correct the crude eyelid line. (There are some pictures of the eye work on the Visual Forensic website.)

The end result is very far from the mild face conveyed in his portraits:

Portrait artists were then and are now notoriously heavy-handed with the painterly Photoshop, and the uncertainties of the French Revolution would have made it a very bad idea to cross someone who could easily have you decapitated, but damn yo, if this reconstruction is the real deal, I hope Robespierre paid those painters generously.

Charlier and Froesch also studied contemporary accounts of Robespierre and those coupled with the newly reconstructed face, suggested a possible diagnosis for the illness known to have afflicted him.

Several clinical signs were described by contemporary witnesses: vision problems, nose bleeds (“he covered his pillow of fresh blood each night”), jaundice (“yellow coloured skin and eyes”), asthenia (“continuous tiredness”), recurrent leg ulcers, and frequent facial skin disease associated with scars of a previous smallpox infection. He also had permanent eye and mouth twitching. The symptoms worsened between 1790 and 1794. […]

The retrospective diagnosis that includes all these symptoms is diffuse sarcoidosis with ophthalmic, upper-respiratory-tract (nose or sinus mucosa), and liver or pancreas involvement.

Sarcoidosis is a rare autoimmune syndrome where granulomas (collections of immune system cells) develop in any number of organs. Symptoms include all the ones mentioned above and a slew of others. The skin can be affected too, causing nodules or lesions that last several weeks. Treatment these days is corticosteroids, but Robespierre died 80 years before the disease was identified by Sir Jonathan Hutchinson and 160 years before the introduction of prednisone. His treatment would have been more along the lines of bleeding and dietary changes.

The reconstruction has not gone over well with Robespierre fans, for some reason.

When the first 3D images emerged earlier this month, far left politicians denounced it as a plot to make their hero look evil.

“These days, with 3D, heroes are derided and tyrant kings are magnified … A sad era,” wrote Alexis Corbiere, a Paris official and member of the Leftist Front, which is among many to view Robespierre as a champion of social justice.

*Some historians think Madame Toussaud lied about the authenticity of the mask to promote her work, that the Revolutionary authorities would have had no interest in preserving Robespierre’s visage and would want to bury him and the rest of the daily pile of bodies as soon as possible. However, the Terror leaders did commission her to make death masks of King Louis XVI, Queen Marie Antoinette and many other notable victims of Madame Guillotine. There’s no reason to assume they’d be inimical to the very idea of preserving the faces of whoever they deemed enemies of the Revolution. Masks of aristocrats and Terror victims were paraded through the streets.

The original of the mask is in Madame Tussauds London. The copies Froesch used are from the Granet Museum in Aix-en-Provence and the National Museum of Natural History in Paris. They were commissioned by artist and phrenologist Pierre Marie Alexandre Dumoutier who amassed a large collection of casts as part of his fascination with the bumps on people’s heads.

54 thoughts on “Terrifying new facial reconstruction of Robespierre

  1. honestly y’all are wild. from what i’ve interpreted from my studies on the French Revolution, you cannot place the blame on one single cause or reason. i see y’all picking sides like, “oh King Louis XVI is the greatest!” or “Robespierre owns my ass” like really?? because in all of your points you say things like “Louis XVI was a trash human” and “Robespierre was a demon” when neither of these are true. first off, Louis had no political experience before he was shoved onto the throne. he wasn’t the best ruler, that’s completely obvious, but i mean, he tried his best. he gets a participation award. here little Louis, here’s your award for running around a grassy field in a team jersey. I recognize that you only joined soccer because your grandpa forced you. sorry buddy. also, y’all have got to stop demonizing Robespierre. from what i know, Robespierre was on the COMMITTEE of public safety. emphasis on committee. and im fairly certain the committee and convention had to vote on these things. Robespierre got too in over his head with revolution and creating a better, almost utopian, France. and sure he was involved with the executions of many people but he didn’t eat babies. he did good things and advocated for equal opportunities. and saying he’s a terrible person because he influenced hitler is completely out of line. you really cannot blame the people either. no matter how insane or bloodthirsty they were, they were uneducated and starving. everything they did started out with a threat to survival and spiraled out of control. in fact, that summarizes the entire revolution. started with good intentions and then spiraled out of control.

  2. I am French and i am glad that the real face of this MONSTER is given to the public After the french revolution the Terror ends up to the War in Vendee (the land of my ancestors) the “official” History refuses to admit that the war in Vendee was a GENOCIDE! !!!!!!it was a christianophoby! And in our present time we have to take care! This horrible ideology is coming back with islamism,
    extreme-left movement, satanism,theorie of gender, ect,

  3. @Luis von Wetzler

    You may have studied history and you may teach at a dozen universities, but you are partisan as hell, which is against academic standards. In academic discourse one should not use phrases as “martyrdom of Their Majesties”, because this is biased language, and scholarship is about objectivity, as much as it can be attained. Therefore your argument “I’m a historian, I know what I am saying” has very little value, as you do not use academic arguments or even language to back up your point of view…

    By the way there is a historical hypothesis that Robespierre was a designated scapegoat when it turned out that something went wrong and the terror had to be stopped. He was the most outspoken one, and also the one most characteristic, so all blame of a group was laid on him, and so popular history remembers him. Academic history knows, too, however, that he was one of the very few truly incorruptible politicians in human history. Which apparently leads to no good, but he was not a “natural born monster”.

  4. The French Revolution birthed all the elements of the totalitarian mind that would plague the modern world:

    *The ends justify the means
    *Individual identity counts for nothing (general will)
    *The use of terror to crush dissent
    *Idealism divorced from reality
    *The destruction of politcs
    *Dictatorship of the inner circle

    Democracy??? Equality??? Fraternity???

    Fascism, communism, Nazism; the ideological end is not relevant. They are all of the same lineage; death, hate, destruction, terror and more terror. No, the French Revolution was a disaster for European and World History.

    1. Do you seriously believe that these ideals were only created during the French Revolution? Here’s an idea, read a history book ascertaining anything before the 18th century. Try taking a look at the very nations that birthed the French Revolution-the Roman Republic and the United States of America.

      Take off the empirical glasses for a moment and maybe you’ll see things clearer.

  5. :love: hey guys xxx i think that everyones face is pretty :blush: :blush: everyone is born different and everyone is so beautiful :blush: :blush: :love: :love: :love: :love: :love:

    cora :love: 😆 :blush: 😉

  6. He reminds me of Richard Burton the actor…someone here said he looks serene for someone knowing he was going to die…but he probably got a glimps of Heaven you fellow humans may notice when someone dear and near to you passes “graduation” were just going home..he also looks resigned and almost with a hint of a smile a for his behavior…such is life, if you didnt have evil you would have a game of life to play :notworthy:

  7. The artist has created the ugly face of a cold-blooded butcher – i.e. a caricature. I very much doubt the reality was this convenient. Let’s not forget, Robespierre was human, and not some kind of deformed monster. This “cartoon” suits our modern biases, but it’s not all that enlightening.

  8. :hattip: :hattip: :hattip: 😎 😎 😎
    this is so cool!! I love history but I am scared of my friends in my history class :angry: :angry: :angry:

  9. I have read other things about the death mask, and that being that there are several claimed death masks, but none that are authenticated. Here is an article about it with several other examples of Robspierre death masks. I tend to wonder why the facial injury wasn’t shown in the example with this article, but it could be that it was touched up to create a mask that purposely did not have any facial injury. http://rodama1789.blogspot.com/2013/12/death-mask-of-robespierre.html

  10. “WE ARE THE REVOLUTION” (we need a better one!)

    Joseph Beuys said that !

    but thats already 40 years ago…

  11. ,,Will pay the price”? Well, he’s dead so… Not really 😂 And btw do you like… I don’t know… freedom? Many of you here seem to really hate it lol. But yeah, I’m guessing that living under a tyrany and religious regime is way better than having rights LMFOA

  12. ,,Will pay the price”? Well, he’s dead so… Not really 😂 And btw do you like… I don’t know… freedom? Many of you here seem to really hate it lol. But yeah, I’m guessing that living under a tyrany and religious regime is way better than having rights…

  13. ,,Will pay the price”? Well, he’s dead so… Not really 😂 And btw do you like… I don’t know… freedom? Many of you here seem to really hate it lol. But yeah, I’m guessing that living under a tyrany and religious regime is way better than having rights…

  14. ROB IS ZADDYYYYYYYY :love: :notworthy: :notworthy: :notworthy: :notworthy: :blush: :blush: :blush: 👿 :hattip: :hattip: :yes: 😉 :notworthy: :notworthy: :notworthy: :notworthy:

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