Here’s What Cleopatra And Other Historical Figures Would Look Like Today (18 New Pics)
My name is Becca Saladin and I work full-time as a graphic designer. I started creating these images of reimagined historical figures as a hobby a little over a year ago. Here's my previous post from the Royalty Now series.
As a child, I would always be sketching and painting. My mom would do art and science projects with me, and both of my parents would read a lot to me, which sparked my interest in history as well. The first book my dad read to me about history was a fictionalized young adult version of the Anne Boleyn story. I became obsessed with Tudor history after that. I also loved Pompeii, ancient Egyptian mummies, and anything else that helped me feel close to the people of the past. I think that is why I enjoy making the recreations so much.
The idea for this specific style of art that I do now began when I was looking at a portrait of Anne Boleyn, thinking about how she might look today since she doesn't look very lifelike in the portraits we have of her. I saw someone else on Reddit try something similar with Tudor wives and I'd seen the recreations of Roman statues. I've always loved Photoshop and what a powerful tool it is, so I decided to try and recreate some of my own and then just kept going.
Hatshepsut came to the throne of Egypt in 1478 BC. She ruled longer than any other female pharaoh and is regarded as being one of the most successful pharaohs in Egyptian history. Egyptologist James Henry Breasted said she is "the first great woman in history of whom we are informed." She re-established trade networks and embarked on great building projects in Egypt. There were so many statues produced during her reign that nearly every major museum that has an Ancient Egyptian exhibit has a Hatshepsut portrait.
Madame De Pompadour
Jeanne Antoinette Poisson (known later as Madame de Pompadour) was a member of the French court in the mid 18th century. She was the official chief mistress of Louis XV from 1745 to 1751 and remained influential as a court favorite until her death. She was not born noble but was raised in a wealthy household. An interesting fact I learned during my research was that she was actually groomed from a young age to become the mistress of a king. Supposedly her mother took her to a fortune teller that predicted she would one day reign over the heart of a King. She received a private education and was very quick-witted—learning all the skills she would one day need to thrive at Versailles. As the king’s mistress, she became a noblewoman and was considered a valuable aide and advisor. Pompadour was a major patroness of architecture and decorative arts, especially porcelain. She was a patroness of the philosophes of the Enlightenment, including Voltaire.
Shaka kaSenzangakhona (Shaka Zulu) was a powerful South African King, ruling over the Zulu Kingdom from 1816 - 1828. He was born in 1787 near present-day Melmoth, KwaZulu-Natal Province. Shaka was the illegitimate son of the previous king and served as a soldier in his youth. When Shaka came to power, he began to expand the empire and align with smaller neighbors to protect them from their Northern enemies, the Ndwandwe. Shaka preferred to apply diplomatic pressure over warfare. He was a master of social and propagandistic political methods, as well as a great warrior when he decided to engage. He is often depicted holding the distinctive spear and shield of the Zulu warriors. Shaka was ultimately assassinated by his own half brothers, Dingane and Mhlangana. His reputation is a bit shaky, as scholars disagree on the extent to which he revolutionized warfare methods as he is credited. Overall a really interesting figure to learn about.
Louis XIV, known also as the Sun King, ruled France from 1643 until 1715, which is the longest reign in French history. France was a leading power during the reign of Louis, but it was a time period marked by near-constant warfare. The Sun King was notoriously excessive, and he cared very much about his image and legacy. He commissioned over 300 portraits of himself during his lifetime (the portrait I’ve chosen here is Louis as a young man of 23). He saw maintaining the royal image as a political duty during the age of absolute monarchies in Europe. It’s clear that Louis was “photoshopped” in portraits after the age of 9 when he contracted smallpox because a single scar is never seen in portraits. Louis was focused more on projecting a mythical image of himself rather than reality (which is similar to most kings and queens throughout the ages). Who knows how close the original portrait I worked from even resembles the king, but it’s a fun exercise nonetheless. I figured a man who was as extra as Louis and wore such insane wigs might have this stylish model blowout I chose on the right.
Pocahontas (c. 1596 – March 1617) was a Native American woman notable for her association with the colonial settlement at Jamestown, Virginia and her travels to England. She was the daughter of the chief Powhatan, the great chief of a network of tributary tribes in the Tsenacommacah, encompassing the Tidewater region of Virginia. We don’t have that many details of her life, but it was certainly not what the Disney film was showing us! She never had a love affair with John Smith and she didn’t save his life during his capture. Pocahontas was captured by hostile colonists in 1613 and encouraged to convert to Christianity—her Christian name became “Rebecca.” She married John Rolfe, and they traveled to London together, attempting to show that she was a “Civilized Savage” in hopes of getting more support and supplies to the Jamestown settlement. Unfortunately, Pocahontas died on the return voyage of an unknown illness at the young age of 21 or 22.
Queen Mother Idia
Idia was the mother of Esigie, who ruled as the Oba of Benin from 1504-1540 in what is now modern-day Nigeria. She was described as a great warrior who was integral in the rise and reign of her son who was the oba (king) of the Edo people.
Marcus Antonius (known in English as Mark Antony), lived from 83 BC until 30 BC. He was an influential Roman military leader and politician during the pivotal time in Roman history when the empire was transitioning from a Republic to an autocratic Empire.
Antony was a friend and supporter of Julius Caesar—they had served together during the Gallic wars and the Empire’s civil war (of which Julius Caesar emerged the victor). After Julius Caesar’s assassination, Antony, Octavian, and Marcus Lepidus joined forces to defeat Caesar’s assassins, eventually becoming a three-man dictatorship. A notorious partier, Mark Antony began his infamous love affair with Egyptian queen Cleopatra. Eventually, tensions between Antony and Octavian became too strong and broke into a civil war. Antony was married to Octavian’s sister while openly carrying out his love affair with the Egyptian queen, further straining the relationship between the two men. Octavian declared war on Cleopatra and marked Antony as a traitor. Antony was defeated by Octavian’s forces at the Battle of Actium. He then fled to Egypt, where both he and Cleopatra notoriously committed suicide. Octavian then became the first true Emperor of Rome, taking on the name Augustus—a former Royalty Now subject.
Mary, Queen Of Scots
This portrait was painted when Mary was between 16 and 18 years old, painted around the time of her wedding to Francis, the Dauphin of France. Honestly, she’s hard to pin down because I’ve seen so many portraits of her and they all look very different. I wouldn’t call Mary beautiful exactly, but she was tall, charming, and vivacious according to descriptions.
Catherine Parr was the queen of England from 1543 - 1547. Catherine and Anne of Cleves were the lucky two that outlived King Henry VIII. Although she’s one of the more forgotten wives, probably because her story is not as “sexy” as the first five, she was a fascinating figure in her own right. Catherine took a special interest in Henry’s children, Edward, Mary, and Elizabeth, and helped with their education. We never would have had the reign of the great Queen Elizabeth I had she not lived―Catherine was instrumental in the passing of the Act of Succession (1543) that placed Mary and Elizabeth back in the line of succession. Catherine was a devout protestant and author—she published prayer books anonymously and later published “Prayers and Meditations” and “The Lamentation of a Sinner” under her own name. Catherine served as Princess Elizabeth’s guardian after the King’s death in 1547, serving a critical role during this period of Tudor transition.
Bolívar was amazing, known also as El Libertador, he was a Venezuelan leader who led what are currently the states of Venezuela, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Panama to independence from the Spanish Empire in the early 1800s. He later became the president of Gran Colombia, a state which included present-day Venezuela, Colombia, Panama, and Ecuador. During his campaigns, Bolivar rode over 123,000 kilometers on horseback, which is 10 times more than Hannibal, three times more than Napoleon, and twice as much as Alexander the Great.
Lucrezia Borgia was a Spanish-Italian noblewoman of the House of Borgia who was the daughter of Pope Alexander VI and his mistress Vannozza dei Cattanei. Lucrezia was an incredibly smart and charming noblewoman—she reigned as the Governor of Spoleto, a position usually held by cardinals, in her own right. Her beauty and grace were renowned throughout Italy. There are many portraits that may be her, but the one I’ve worked from here is the only one that was confirmed to be her. She was also said to have blonde hair but this portrait shows her with a more strawberry blonde tone, which I’ve replicated.
Richard III was the last Plantagenet monarch of England. Famously, he has both staunch defenders and detractors in the historical community. Before the Richard III Society began defending his historical legacy, Richard was known as a cruel cripple who probably killed the two children who were the greatest threat to his throne. His body was famously recovered from underneath a parking lot in 2012, proving that he did have scoliosis (which was depicted in this portrait of him, and why I raised his right shoulder in my recreation image) and that he died of battlefield wounds. Richard’s face was recreated using computer technology in 2013 by Caroline Wilkinson.
This time, I’ve been given permission to use this recreation by the forensic artist (& my idol) Elisabeth Daynes (@atelier_daynes). This recreation of King Tut has long been my favorite and was created in 2005 when 2 teams were tasked with recreating what King Tut may have looked like. It shows some of the features that may have been the result of inbreeding, such as the overbite and weak chin. I realize that the hard work here has been done for me by Daynes, but I wanted to bring him into the modern-day.
Alexander Hamilton was a Founding Father of the United States, being an integral developer of the constitution as well as the founder of our financial system. Hamilton lived a massively interesting life filled with war, statesmanship, a sex scandal, a duel, and so much more. I’ve only scratched the surface with my research—what’s your favorite fact about him?