For the image-creating human understanding it is necessary to approach history through vivid images of the past. For forming for oneself a vivid representation of a historical person, Herder invites us into a “conversation with the dead ones”. In the image of a historical character, three layers can be discerned: the innermost in one’s personality, which to a great extent is a product of the individual’s early experiences; the characters public deeds and works, which are seen contextualised to their historical circumstances; and the views of the world, the state and human life which are of a general relevance. It depends both on the historical person and the observer which layers are the most important in each case. As examples of Herder’s approach, four cases are discussed in the present paper: Thomas Abbt’s writing, the Book of Job, the Spinoza-Dialogues and, finally, the portrait of Louis XIV.