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You Are Looking At Mozart's Face,… Really?





















You know what these facial composites are, right? They are ‘graphical representation of an eyewitness’ memory of a face, as recorded by a composite artist’, and ‘used mainly by police in their investigation of crimes’. It’s often the only thing that police have to identify a criminal when photographs aren’t available.

A similar technique was used to create this facial composite of… Mozart? The Federal Criminal Police Office in Germany used four old paintings of Mozart circa 1777, the closest things to eyewitness’ memories we have, and produced the image above.  And this is almost too good to be true, doesn’t Amadeus look hot as hell? The comparisons on Reddit, where the picture was posted a few months ago, went from young Gene Wilder to Matthew McConaughey, Heath Ledger, Phil Collins and Ted Bundy? What?  No, I thought he kind of looked like Elijah Wood in the Lord of the Rings.

But I would totally be careful with this sort of document, they don’t really describe how they manage to produce the picture, but I suspect they superposed different portraits of Mozart, using some kind of computer program, and ended up with the average of all these images. And this process makes things much better than the originals because it erases the possible asymmetries between the right and left sides, and since our sense of beauty relies on symmetry… Look what they did here, superposing the faces of more than 100 women of 41 different nationalities, there is not a bad looking one in the lot! The same guy did it for men too here. All the portraits kind of look the same too, all fantastically good looking and supersymmetric. This is a strange phenomenon, but superposition of faces eliminates defects and the result tends toward a universal face that could be almost anyone in Hollywood.

This is probably what happened to this Mozart’s picture, strangely contemporary looking, it’s not Mozart, it’s an idealistic average picture of him. But why does it matter so much after all? Why does it matter if this musical genius was good looking or not? I suppose we prefer our genius to be attractive, but alas, this article ‘What Mozart Really Looked Like: 14 Portraits of the Composer’ describes him as ‘a small man with a plain, pockmarked face’… whereas another source adds ‘Mozart was short, probably not much over five feet tall, with fine, blond hair (about which he is said to have been vain), large, protruding eyes, a missing earlobe on one side, a face somewhat pockmarked from a childhood bout with smallpox, and a “Salzburg” nose inherited from his mother.’ However ‘He was very popular with the ladies, in spite of his small size; but he had a most unusual face, and he could cast a spell on any woman with his eyes.’

At the end, Mozart’s look remains a mystery, just like the beauty of his music.

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