Recording and re-materialisation of the Griffoni Polyptych
Digital technology applied to the re-unification of a scattered altarpiece
The restoration of the chapel of Saint Vincent in the Basilica di San Petronio (Bologna) has provided scholars with a chance to re-consider an altarpiece originally painted for the chapel: the Polittico Griffoni – one of the most important masterpieces of the Renaissance. The Griffoni Polyptych is a series of sixteen tempera paintings on poplar panels painted between 1471 and 1472 by Francesco del Cossa and Ercole de’Roberti. The work was commissioned by the original patrons of the chapel, the Griffoni family, but was removed from the Basilica of Saint Petronio in Bologna, dismembered and sold when the chapel came to the Aldrovandi family in 1725. The sixteen surviving panels are displayed in nine museums and collections across Europe and North America.
From 2012 to 2015, the surface of the panels of the Polittico Griffoni have been recorded in three dimensions, with the Lucida 3D scanner, as part of a project undertaken by the Foundation in collaboration with the Basilica of San Petronio and the architectural studio Cavina Terra Architetti. In addition to the 3D scanning, the paintings were also photographically recorded at high resolution. For the high-resolution colour recording, Factum Foundation used a planar system to record the small panels and a panoramic photographic system recorded the larger panels. A vast amount of photographs were taken and stitched together using PTGui software. Recent developments in both hardware and software are opening up new possibilities for macro photographic recording that allow the paintings to be studied with forensic accuracy. The resulting archives are evidence that the application of technology can ensure that cultural artefacts can be documented, studied and transmitted in a faithful way.
On October 1st, 2017, all sixteen of the facsimile panels were symbolically returned to San Petronio in time for the visit of the Pope, enabling a reappraisal of this important Renaissance altarpiece in the context for which it was originally produced.
[L] Hypothesis of a possible layout of the original Griffono Polyptych © Cecilia Cavalca, 2013 - [R] Hand drawing by Stefano Orlandi, made in 1725 before the dismantling of the polyptych, that guided the initial research on the Griffoni Polyptych from Bologna University © State Archive of Bologna
One of the suggested reconstructions of the Griffoni Polyptych indicating the relative position of the different panels.
Hover over the image to see the location of the original panel.
Factum Foundation photographed and scanned all known panels of the Griffoni Polyptych. The work of Francesco del Cossa and Ercole de' Roberti was recorded over the course of three years in the following institutions:
Palazzo Cini, Venice (June 2012) Saint George; Saint Catherine; Saint Jerome
Top: Ercole de’Roberti, Saint George, c. 1472, 26.3 x 9.3 cm, Fondazione Giorgio Cini, Venice, front and back; Bottom: 3D renders generated by Lucida, front and back © Factum Foundation
Cagnola Art Collection, Gazzada (September 2012) Annunciation Angel; Annunciation Virgin
3D data of Francesco del Cossa, Annunciation Angel, c. 1472, diam. 25 cm, routed into gesso coated material © Factum Foundation
National Gallery, London (August 2013) Saint Vincent Ferrer
Panoramic photography system recording the Polittico Griffoni's main panel © Factum Foundation
Vatican Museum, Rome (October 2013) The Miracles of Saint Vincent Ferrer (Predella)
Ercole de’Roberti, Stories of Saint Vincent Ferrer, c. 1473 © Factum Foundation
3D render of the panel generated by Lucida © Factum Foundation
3D render of the panel’s back. The modulation corresponds to the pattern of horizontal cracks visible in the front side © Factum Foundation
Pinacoteca Nazionale, Ferrara (October 2013) Saint Petronius
[R] Colour data of Ercole de’Roberti's Saint Petronius, c. 1472, 26.3 x 9.3 cm, Pinacoteca Nazionale, Ferrara © Factum Foundation
[L] 3D render of Saint Petronius © Factum Foundation
Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan (November 2014) Saint Peter; Saint John the Baptist
Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam (April 2015) Saint Anthony the Abbot
National Gallery of Art, Washington (September 2015) Saint Florian; Saint Lucy; Crucifixion
Louvre Museum, Paris (October 2015) Saint Appolonia; Saint Michael Archangel
The photographs were combined with the scanned data, producing a digital reconstruction for museums to continue studying this masterpiece of the Ferrarese School. The video below describes the scanning process and shows the images obtained.
Concurrently to the scanning and production of the facsimile, Factum Foundation has developed a digital viewer that enables the visualisation of the scanned relief and colour data of the panels at an extremely high resolution, allowing the inspection of every single detail of the paintings.
The high-resolution images were used to create the facsimile of the Griffoni Polyptych. The information about the relief, cracks and marks of the surface obtained with the Lucida 3D Scanner was printed at Canon Production Printing, a Canon Company specializing in elevated printing in resin. A silicone mould transferred the CPP printed information onto a primed, linen support. This allowed creating a facsimile that reproduced the relief and the colour of each panel.
The colour information was printed on this primed support using Factum Arte´s flatbed printer. Many tests were carried out to ensure the exact match with the original. Colour sticks created during the recording phases were used to compare with the prints.
Finally, some of the panels were hand gilt by Factum Arte´s restorer Eva Segovia. A special structure to hang the panels was also constructed for this project.
All sixteen panels were installed in the Chapel of St. Vincent Ferrer in the Basilica of San Petronio on October 1st, 2017.
Facsimile of the Polittico Griffoni altarpiece mounted on a provisionary display in the Basilica of San Petronio, Bologna