What did Simon Bolivar really look like? There are plenty of portraits of the South American hero floating around. Some were painted during his lifetime, others after he died. The thing, several are quite fanciful. For example, a few years back, the then-president of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, unveiled a new official portrait of Bolivar. In it, Simon looked like… Hugo Chavez!
So Hugo took some artistic licenses and got his dream of twinning with his hero and compatriot. But for those who prefer historical accuracy, here is what Simon Bolivar’s face really, truly looked like. (There is even a death mask that leaves out all the guesswork):
1. Simon Bolivar’s real face: the younger years
This is how Simon Bolivar looked when he was twenty-one years old. The portrait shows the lively eyes described by his contemporaries, as well as the fancy clothes he liked wearing.
This portrait is a miniature. And it was made during the years Simon, who was from Venezuela, was living it up in France.
That the likeness was painted while he was living in Europe explains his paleness. Many of the later portraits show Simon with the tan he got from years of campaigning in the tropics.
A good thing about this painting is that a French artist made it. And at the time, the French were more skilled at making portraits than the South Americans who painted Simon later on.
2. Simon Bolivar’s real face: the most accurate portrait
This portrait has the OK of Simon himself. He sent it to British General Robert Wilson along with a kind letter, in which he wrote: “I take the liberty of sending you a portrait of me made in Lima with the greatest accuracy and likeness.”
This portrait, made by a Peruvian artist, has some similarities with the one above. In both, Simon has black curly hair, big sideburns, a high forehead, thick eyebrows, big eyes with big eyelids, quite a distance between eyebrows and eyes, high cheekbones, prominent nose and chin, and a small mouth with thin lips.
His contemporaries agreed that Simon was not a stunner and described his face as “common” (yet women found him irresistible). They also wrote that his face got longer and thinner with age and that his chin became more and more prominent.
3. Simon Bolivar’s real face taken from his death mask
Look no further to see Simon Bolivar’s real face.
When Simon died, his doctor made a death mask from his face. Soon after, an artist used it to sculpt this marble statue. So this is not an artistic rendition but a true likeness.
The statue decorates the house where Simon died in Santa Marta, Colombia.
Although Simon died at 47, he looked much older. He had strained himself for years. Simon fought in more than 100 battles. He also rode on horseback twice as much as Alexander the Great and 3 times as much as Napoleon. He put himself -and his army- through hell and back and survived tropical diseases. No one said freeing five South American countries from Spanish rule was going to be easy.
When he was in his late thirties, Simon himself acknowledged he looked like a man in his sixties. And after that, illnesses made him loose a lot of weight.
He finally died of tuberculosis, the same disease that killed both his parents decades before.
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