Computers have for a while now been able to generate images of people who do not exist - wholly original agglomerations of human features made by combining vast repositories of photo data. Artbreeder is one program capable of generating such images.
But one doesn't only have to use these types of software to make people who have never existed. They can also be fed portraits of historical (or legendary) characters to provide a more realistic conception of what they might have looked like in the flesh. (It should be noted that the result is not some omniscient A.I. declaration of what a historical person must have looked like, but an extrapolation from available portraiture.)
Digital artist and photographer Bas "ganbrood" Uterwijk has been doing just this, and posting the results on Instagram. Some of them are quite striking, so we've assembled a small gallery of his most impressive AI-generated portraits. (While most of these are historical characters, a few are mythological or semi-mythological characters from art, which means they are probably actually realistic depictions of models from centuries past.)
Van Gogh painted many self-portraits. The image at left was painted in 1889.2,622112Brings the past to life?
The last of the so-called "Five Good Emperors" of Rome, Marcus Aurelius wore a beard in the Greek style, as was fashionable at the time. There are several extant portraits of him, both in statuary and coinage.1,802140Brings the past to life?
This image is based on Jacques-Louis David's 1812 painting The Emperor Napoleon In His Study At The Tuileries.1,987175Brings the past to life?
This recreation imagines the Statue of Liberty as a real woman. The actual identity of the statue's model (commonly believed to be the sculptor's mother) is a matter of some debate.2,114224Brings the past to life?