You Look Like Hell

Dante gets an extreme makeover.

By Boonsri Dickinson|Wednesday, May 02, 2007
Dante-skull-150
Dante-skull-150
A painting of Dante with a model
of his skull superimposed over it
shows where artist Giotto di
Bondone went wrong.
(Courtesy of F. Mallegni)

After Divine Comedy poet Dante Alighieri died in 1321, paintersdepicted him with a harsh countenance and an impressively pointed nosethat not even his beloved Beatrice would have called handsome. But therepresentations may not reflect reality, according to a team of Italiananthropologists and facial-reconstruction engineers who recentlycreated a 3-D version of Dante’s head.

Following the Manchester method of facial reconstruction, whichextrapolates soft tissue from bone structure, the team used a computerto combine information from a plaster cast of Dante’s skull and frompictures and precise measurements made by a University of Bolognaprofessor who was given permission to examine the poet’s remains in1921, the only time his crypt has ever been opened.

dante-model-150
dante-model-150
Mallegni's model shows a
softer side of Dante.
(Courtesy of F. Mallegni)

The reconstruction shows a softer side of the man who wrote reamsabout infernos and levels of hell. With larger eyes, a rounder jaw, anda gentler expression, the new Dante is considerably better looking. Hisnose, however, is still just as large and crooked. “His nasal septumwas diverted on the left side, and the right nasal bone is deformed,”says Francesco Mallegni, an anthropologist at Pisa University whohelped with the remodeling.

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