We trust that George Washington looked like he does on the dollar because he sat for a lot of paintings. We have a good guess as to what kings, queens and people of importance looked like because, well, they could afford to sit for a painting.
But the further in the past you go, the less clear it becomes. There is that classic debate of was Jesus really a brown haired, good looking dude. Could you imagine a blonde Jesus? Or a black/Arab Jesus? But who the hell knows? No one painted him while he was still alive, right? He never sat for an artist.
Which brings me to this recent CNN story about Johann Sebastian Bach. Seems that he only sat for one painter in his whole life. Hard to believe but apparently true.
The story says, Bach's appearance has long been surrounded by mystery. Images of the prolific composer are plentiful -- the Bach House alone has 140 likenesses -- but he is only known to have sat for one portrait, museum director Joerg Hansen said.
But due to the fact that someone made a copper replica of his skull (what?), scientists were able to make a good guess as to what he looked like.
I think I saw this guy on a bus one time, actually.