Bach gets a makeover

Almost 260 years after his death, a scientist has reconstructed the face of 18th century German composer Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750).

Bach gets a makeover
Photo: dpa

Scottish anthropologist Caroline Wilkinson used forensic medical methods to render the Baroque composer Johann Sebastian Bach’s face for the Bach Museum in Eisenach, the city where he was born. Using his bones and complicated digital techniques, Wilkinson rebuilt what the muscle and fat deposits on the composer’s face probably looked like.

Until now, the only surviving portrait that Bach himself sat for was painted in 1746 by Elias Gottlob Haußmann, says Jörg Hansen, director of the Bach Museum. Wilkinson’s rendering bears a resemblance to this portrait, but Bach fans will need to distance themselves from their previous perceptions of his countenance.

The scientist says creating an exact likeness of the composer would be impossible, estimating that her rendering is about 70 percent accurate. And Bach’s eye colour remains disputed, and different paintings of the composer show him with both blue and brown eyes. Scholars and museum staff will agree on an eye colour soon. An expert in Munich will create a wig of horse hair that was the fashion of Bach’s time.

A small firm will then use Wilkinson’s computer model to case a new bust of the composer. The Bach Museum will reveal the bust on March 21, Bach’s birthday and the opening date of their new exhibit, “Bach in the Mirror of Medicine,” which runs until November 9. Other treasures at the exhibit include Bach’s skull, which was exhumed in 1894.

Wilkinson’s Bach reconstruction will also be on display next Monday at Berlin’s Charité Institute for Anatomy.