‘You have to really seek the face of Jesus if you’re going to find it,’ says 3D computer graphics artist Ray Downing, the man responsible for an ambitious project to recreate the actual face of Jesus from the faint image on the Shroud of Turin.
The incredible results feature in the History Channel’s premiere documentary, The Real face of Jesus, which screened in the US on March 30 and will again on April 3. It is unclear when it will screen in Australia.
The History Channel said, ‘For the devout and curious alike, this documentary feature may bring us the closest we have ever come to seeing what Jesus actually looked like.
‘Science and religion join together, bringing cutting-edge computer technology to an ancient stretch of fabric, and creating a living, moving 3D image of the man many believe to be Jesus Christ.’
The Shroud of Turin is an ancient 14-foot linen cloth believed by millions to be the burial shroud of Jesus Christ. Imprinted on the torn, blood and water stained fabric is a faint image of a crucified man. The question of whether this man is or is not Jesus has been debated for centuries.
According to the History Channel, an astonishing discovery was made in about the Shroud in 1976 – something no other painting or artwork has – the encoding of 3D information.
‘The presence of 3D information encoded in a 2D image is quite unexpected, as well as unique,’ says Downing. ‘It is as if there is an instruction set inside a picture for building a sculpture.’
Despite decades of intense scientific investigation, the mechanism underlying the mysterious encoding of this three-dimensional data within the Shroud remains elusive.
In the documentary, the computer graphics team is seen grappling with the faint Shroud image to wrestle out the hidden face within. Coaxing the image from the cloth proves to be no easy task. After months of work, a breakthrough: Downing focuses on the fact that the cloth would have been wrapped around the face of the man buried beneath.
Downing is able to account for that distortion in the image and remove it, leaving an accurate, 3D portrait of the image presented on the Shroud of Turin.
Jesus – in this 3D version – is swarthy and 1.72 metres tall, which as the SMH points out, is quite different to the representation of Jesus in classical paintings where he is usually fair, slim and tall. (PH Note – Sorry SMH, I think must of us have enough sense to understand the cultural transference going on there…)
‘I have a lot of information about that face and my estimation is we’re pretty darn close to what this man looked like,’ Downing told ABC News.
For Ray Downing, the story of recreating the three-dimensional face from the shroud is entwined around another, even more important story.
‘There is the story of the Shroud which, artistically and scientifically, is the story of a transition from two-dimensional to three-dimensional,’ Downing says.
‘But there is as well the story of the man in the Shroud, and a record of His transformation from death to life”, Downing observes, “The two stories are intertwined, they seem to be one and the same”.
Permanently stored and out of public view, this year The Shroud of Turin will have its first public exhibition in 10 years. Between April 10 and May 23, 2010, millions of people from all over the world are expected to visit it at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Turin, Italy.
According to the Vatican, Pope Benedict XVI plans to visit the Shroud on May 2, 2010.
The Real face of Jesus is produced by Left/Right in conjunction with Studio Macbeth for HISTORY. Executive Producer is Ken Druckerman, co-Producer is Ray Downing. HISTORY Executive Producer is Carl H Lindahl.