The face of a Napoleonic soldier reconstructed

The ISCD and the Sorbonne University Library teams recently collaborated to reconstruct the face of a Napoleonic soldier, mortally wounded on his way back from the battle of Austerlitz.

The Dupuytren Pathological Anatomy Collections, hosted at Sorbonne University, include several thousand of bone pieces, fluid specimens and anatomical wax-up. Among them, the skull of Christophe Cros, a Napoleonic soldier died in 1806 from his wounds, his forehead spiked by a rifle rod. His case, considered as a milestone in the history of neuroscience and traumatology, was studied by Dominique-Jean Larrey, a pioneer in “battle surgery” and future surgeon-in-chief of the Grande Armée.

Skull of Christophe Cros
Facial reconstruction at ISCD

Digital Facial reconstruction

Using the multidisciplinary expertise and innovative techniques developed by the ISCD, the face of a soldier from the Sorbonne University Library could be reconstructed. The visualization team relied on the scientific method developed a few years earlier as part of the FaciLe chair held by the ISCD. The algorithms developed in the context of this chair are able to compute a rigorous 3D digital face reconstruction. Once the face numerical mesh is obtained, an “artistic” work is then required to get a realistic rendering. 


The release last June of the “Mesh to Metahuman” plugin developed by the American company Epic Games allowed the team to go further in the representation of the face by using new photo-realistic rendering features. The combination of the robust scientific method of facial reconstruction developed by the ISCD and the realistic rendering advances provided by the “Mesh to Metahuman” plugin can be really useful for many other applications, including forensics.

In parallel, the Sorbonne University Library started a research program to identify the soldier and retrace his career. He might be identified as a young Alsatian carpenter from Hartmannswiller, conscripted in November 1805, and about 21 years old at the time of his death. Further research in archival and iconographic sources is currently in progress in order to refine the characterization work, to identify the physical aspect of the soldiers of the Empire.

The results of this research will provide references for improving the realistic rendering, and will then be integrated into the digital representation of Christophe Cros by the ISCD’s visualization team, for a rendering as close as possible to historical reality.

The face of a Napoleonic soldier reconstructed