Offbeat Video

By Janet Tappin Coelho in Brazil


Brazilian scientists have used 3D technology to reconstruct the face of the country’s first emperor, winning the royal seal of approval from the monarch’s heirs.

The life-like portrait of Dom Pedro I, who reigned between 1822-1831, was officially unveiled Monday 23 April and ‘bears a close resemblance to the family,’ according to his four-times great grandson, Prince Bertrand of Orléans-Braganza.

PIC FROM Cicero Moraes / Caters News: L to R Cicero Moraes with Dom Bertrand and Jose Lira

In a surprise discovery the 3D face reconstruction also revealed a well-kept 190 year old secret – the Brazilian regent, who was born in Portugal, had a broken nose which was never fixed during his lifetime and never documented in the history books.

The 3D reconstruction of the centuries-old ruler shows a ‘good looking man, with strong, pronounced features and an asymmetrical nose.’

The initiative is the result of a joint effort between lawyer and monarchist, Jose Lira, a professor at the Vale do Acaraú State University, Ceará, and 3D graphic designer, Cicero Moraes, based in Sinop, Mato Grosso, who have collaborated in the past on several digital face rebuilding projects including those of Mary Magdalene and St Valentines.

Dom Pedro’s face was digitally recreated with the help of a single photograph taken of his skull in 2012 when Sao Paulo University (USP) archaeologists exhumed his skeletal remains for scientific study. The regent’s bones are interred in a crypt in the Monument to Independence, in the Ipiranga Independence Park in Sao Paulo. 

The emperor, who was known as the ‘liberator’ and ‘soldier king’ died in 1834 in Portugal. His body was returned to Brazil in 1972 according to his wishes.

“Piecing together the cranium was the most difficult part of the procedure,” revealed Mr Moraes, who took some 60 hours to produce the realistic likeness.

“The photo was the only one we had. It showed the skull resting on a reflective surface with the image mirrored below. Fortunately, this gave me two pictures and I was able to make three-dimensional triangulations, cross-referencing details using mathematical formulas to calculate important points on the cranium to rebuild the face.”

PIC FROM Cicero Moraes / Caters News

A virtual donor skull, similar to Dom Pedro, was used by the graphic artist as a reference in the 3D reconstruction process.

Once Mr Moraes achieved the digital match between the monarch’s head and the photo he proceeded to add the anatomical details, mapping soft tissue, muscle and cartilage until the face of Brazil’s ancient ruler emerged.

Prof Lira first suggested the project to Prince Bertrand in 2015. The unmarried 77-year-old prince is responsible for protecting the historical memory of the Brazilian royal family at the Imperial House in Sao Paulo.

After overcoming several legal obstacles, Prof Lira received authorisation from the royal descendants this year to carry out the procedure. He had previously agreed copyright permission with the photographer to use the only image of the monarch’s cranium.

“I always admired Dom Pedro because he was a liberal thinker and established Brazil’s first constitution in 1824. I wanted to preserve his legacy by revealing what he looked like, so Brazilian’s today could celebrate his historical contribution,” explained Prof Lira.

“The emperor embodied the idea of being a Brazilian and built a country proud of its heritage. He declared independence from Portugal in 1822 and was a genius who achieved so much for our nation before he died in 1834 at the age of 36,” he continued.

PIC FROM Cicero Moraes / Caters News

The independence treaty was formally recognised between the two countries in 1825.

Before reconstructing the sovereign’s face, Mr Moraes sent the digitally produced skull for analysis to forensic expert Dr Marcos Paulo Machado, chief of the Forensic Anthropology Service at Rio de Janeiro’s Medical Legal Institute (IML).

“I received the images as a double blind investigation. I didn’t have any anatomical details about the person and I didn’t know of his importance,” admitted Dr Machado.

“I applied some analytical techniques to determine the sex which involved checking the frontal bone and the lower jaw. For ancestral background I studied the facial bones, especially the nasal spine and anterior nasal aperture.

“I found a fracture in the nasal area, which suggested this person had hit their nose as it showed a blunt action from the left to the right. I also examined the teeth for age. The results revealed the skull belonged to an adult male of European origin in his mid-thirties who had suffered a nasal injury,” the forensic specialist concluded.

The discovery of the broken nose intrigued historian Paulo Rezzutti, author of the 2015 biography of Dom Pedro – the Untold Story.

He said: “Within the royal family, there is a tale that the emperor once damaged his nose, but history has no record of this fact.

“We know Dom Pedro had two major accidents, one in 1824 while on horseback and another in 1829, while driving a carriage. At the time it was reported he took a ‘bruise to the forehead’. But we’re not certain whether he broke his nose at the same time.”

PIC FROM Cicero Moraes / Caters News

Brazil lived under a monarchy for more than 300 years. Since the 17th century emperors governing the Latin American nation, as well as the Kings of Portugal, belonged to the Bragança dynasty.

Rio de Janeiro became the seat of government for the Portuguese empire in 1808 when the royal family fled to Brazil to escape the invasion of Napoleon Bonaparte. The dynasty continued to rule Brazil until the crown was eventually overthrown by republicans in 1889. A year after slavery was abolished.

Prince Bertrand, who describes himself as the heir to the ‘extinct’ throne, is the third of 12 children. His older brother, Dom Luiz, 79, shuns the spotlight and his second elder brother renounced his rights to marry a ‘commoner’.

The prince commented: “The reconstruction of the face of my ancestor, Dom Pedro, has been really well done.

“I can see the result captures life-like accuracy and bears a close resemblance to the family. It shows him to be the bold, courageous, decisive and firm man he was.”

According to Mr Rezzutti, the emperor was also ‘hyperactive, anxious, determined and very flirtatious’ and believed to have fathered many children.

“I’ve grown up seeing Dom Pedro’s image in history books at school, so it was a privilege to be part of this project,” said Mr Moraes.

“Surprisingly his broken nose wasn’t as noticeable once I added his facial hair,” he revealed.

The 3D designer stressed work on the face was strictly based on scientific calculations.

However, to accurately portray Dom Pedro’s clothes and the way he cut his hair, wore his sideburns and beard, Mr Moraes referred to historical paintings produced during the period.