Mikhail Gerasimov’s Career

M.M. Gerasimov was born in Saint-Petersburg on September 15, 1907, son of a municipal doctor. He spent his childhood and youth in Irkutsk. His father was an educated man and an excellent physician, and his maternal grandfather was a painter. The boy’s devotions developed early, largely thanks to his father’s rich library. From his early years on, he dreamed of reconstructing the appearance of ancient people. At thirteen, Misha Gerasimov began studying at Irkutsk Medical School anatomical museum. These studies were a starting point for his future work in the field of facial reconstruction. His artistic talent, inborn outsight, excellent visual memory, and an enormous motivation had greatly contributed to his success.

In 1922, still a schoolboy, Mikhail started working at Irkutsk Regional Museum. His first sculptural reconstructions – those of the Pithecanthropus and of the Neanderthal – were made for the museum in 1927. Before the war, Gerasimov created at least seventeen facial reconstructions of ancient people, and two of the Russian Princes – Yaroslav the Wise and Andrey Bogolyubsky.

In 1932 he moved to Leningrad, where he became member of the Institute for the History of Material Culture, at the same time heading the Hermitage restoration laboratories. The war broke out when he was in Samarkand, taking part in the opening of Timur’s and his relatives’ tomb in Ghur-Emir mausoleum.

In 1944 Gerasimov and his family moved to Moscow. Being associated first with the Institute for the History of Material Culture, and later with the Institute of Ethnography, he authored dozens of documental sculptures of people of various epochs, including portraits of historical personalities – Timur, Ulugbek, Rudaki, Ivan the Terrible, Admiral Ushakov, Schiller, and many others. In 1950, the Laboratory of Plastic Reconstruction was set up at the Institute of Ethnography, and Gerasimov headed it for twenty years until his death. His lifework was continued by his students, the best-known being Galina Lebedinskaya. The Russian school of plastic reconstruction founded by Gerasimov is still active. His main books are Basic Principles of Facial Reconstruction from the Cranium (1949), Facial Reconstruction from the Cranium (1955), and People of the Stone Age (1964).

Gerasimov died when he was sixty-two. His enormous talent, persistence, and industry brought him tremendous success, although much has remained unfinished. Before winning recognition and fame, Gerasimov had to face mistrust and indifference. He was a remarkably genial and cheerful person. Having found himself quite early, he took his own way and followed it to the end.

M .M. Gerasimov with his wife Tamara
Sergeyevna Vanderbellen in 1962.
M .M. Gerasimov with his daughters.
Left to right:
Tanya, Ksenia, Margarita (1940s)
 Tamara Vanderbellen – a woman who
became Gerasimov’s wife
(late 1920s – early 1930s).
Gerasimov’s lifework – his book 
Facial Reconstruction from the 
Cranium – was dedicated to her.
Gerasimov’s sixtieth birthday (he is on
the right). Samarkand, 1967.
Gerasimov’s sixtieth anniversary (on
the left, Academician A.P.Okladnikov;
on the right, M.M. Gerasimov).
Moscow, 1967.
M .M. Gerasimov at the opening of
the Timurid tomb in Ghur-Emir
mausoleum, Samarkand, June 22, 1941.
Plaque in the Scythian animal style.
M.M. Gerasimov. Wood, carving.
 Plaque in the Scythian animal style.
M.M. Gerasimov. Wood, carving.
“Pelican. Wood, carving.
M .M. Gerasimov’s tools.
Chisels and penknife.
M .M. Gerasimov’s tools.
Crystal inkpot with bronze lid,
presented to Gerasimov by his wife
and daughter Margarita.
 “Ape with a human skull”, by
M.M. Gerasimov. Plaster.
Gerasimov’s gift to Professor
 L.V. Oshanin, an anthropologist.
“A tableful”.  Friendly caricature. 
M.M. Gerasimov among ancient men 
and historical personalities whose
appearances were reconstructed by him.


Mikhail Gerasimov’s Career
Mikhail Gerasimov as an Archaeologist
Reconstruction of the Face from the Cranium
“Sinanthropus” (Member of the Species Homo Erectus)
Homo Neanderthalensis (Neanderthal man)
Neanderthal Child from Teshik-Tash
People of the Upper Paleolithic
People of the Mesolithic
People of the Early Iron Age
Drawings by M.M. Gerasimov