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Historical Portraits Recreated

British photographer Drew Gardner recreated portraits of some of the world’s most famous historical figures, featuring their direct descendants as models.

Culture Compass
Culture Compass
GenderFemale, Male, Other
Age BracketGrown Ups, Middle Aged, Elderly

British photographer Drew Gardner recreated portraits of some of the world’s most famous historical figures, featuring their direct descendants as models. The project began about 15 years ago when Gardner’s mother mentioned that he resembled his grandfather. A keen historian, Gardner spent years tracking down the look-alike descendants of famous historical figures for his project, “The Descendents”.

Gardner’s criteria for choosing subjects was that the historical figure must be widely known to the public and have made a significant impact that goes beyond simple celebrity. He carried out in-depth research tracing the direct descendants and verifying their lineage. The trick, he says, was to find a relative who is around the same age as the subject when the original source portrait was made. To maintain the integrity of the original image, the costumes and props are vintage, when possible. Sets were created sets with painstaking attention to the smallest of details to resemble its original painting or photograph.

Sourcing the period costumes and props created such authentic backgrounds, they look like something straight out of a history book. Gardner even carefully analyzed the lighting in each original portrait and patiently recreated them as closely as possible, using all kinds of gear and techniques. Those among the photographed are Irina Guicciardini Strozzi, the 15th great-granddaughter of Lisa del Giocondo, Gerald Charles Dickens, Dickens’ great, great-grandson, etc The Project has been featured in The Smithsonian Magazine, National Geographic, The Times Saturday Magazine, CNN, NBC, and on BBC World.

References – This Is Colossal and Drew Gardner

Culture Compass
The relatives of historically significant people are, for the most part, out of the spotlight, but as the photographer notes, their ancestors’ “DNA is walking down the street." With The Descendants Gardner has recreated history and these phenomenal photographs will be there for viewers to cherish for a long time.


  • Popularity 8.0
  • Inventiveness 7.0
  • Engagement 6.0
  • Human Centricity 5.0

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