Amazing! VR Expert Brings Roman Emperors to “Life”

Daniel Voshart describes the series as a quarantine project that got a bit out of hand.

Sometimes, it’s easy to forget that the people in our history books were living, breathing humans who had thoughts and feelings, likes and dislikes, families and friends. When we see a statue or a stylized portrait, it’s hard to connect.

Daniel Voshart, a VR specialist in the film industry who holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the School of Image Arts at Ryerson University and a Masters of Architecture at the University of Toronto, has done something pretty incredible. He has taken ancient busts, images and descriptions of Roman emperors and turned them into realistic portraits that look like photographs. He says it was “a quarantine project that got a bit out of hand” and the results are fantastic.

He released the images in poster form in July, which sold out very quickly. Even Crissy Teigen was into his new portraits, tweeting “helloooooo severus” (sic).



Voshart tweaked some of the images based on feedback and learning more about the original images he used and has released a second edition.

You can buy a poster of this second edition by visiting his Etsy store. It’s a perfect gift for the history buff in your life!

The biggest change was Macrinus. Voshart says, “I had previously referenced an old bust image found on Getty images. That bust doesn’t seem to be associated with Macrinus anymore. The narrow nose and bald head were inconsistent with coinage. Whitewashing? Now weighted heavily to bronze bust.” He also took his cue from this contemporary portrait:

By © José Luiz Bernardes Ribeiro, Public Domain


All Dan Voshart’s portraits are his artistic interpretations based busts, coin images, written accounts, birthplaces and UV skin maps. He takes the images, puts them into an online program called ArtBreeder, a generative adversarial network (or GAN), then makes changes and tweaks in Photoshop and runs them through the program again.

To make these images less “uncanny valley” he uses real people’s faces in some instances and blends their pictures into the images of the emperor.

Maximus Thrax by Dan Voshart/Twitter

He tells The Verge that, for instance, he put a little bit of Daniel Craig in Augustus. For Maximus Thrax, he used André the Giant because Thax was believed to have the same pituitary gland disorder as André the Giant. He also used an  Assistant Professor of Classics at USC.

Check out more of Dan Voshart’s work at, including this fantastic series bringing to “life” ancient Mummy Portraits.

Title image: Dan Voshart/ Twitter