Re-creating the Colossus of Constantine
in collaboration with Fondazione Prada and the Musei Capitolini
Factum Foundation has worked with the Musei Capitolini and Fondazione Prada on an ambitious project to recreate the large-scale sculpture of the Colossus of Constantine (313-324) for the exhibition 'Recycling Beauty' (November 17, 2022 - February 27, 2023), curated by Salvatore Settis. The 13m-tall (42 feet) work, on display inside the Cisterna at the Fondazione Prada, is the result of months of close collaboration between the 3D team at Factum Foundation and a team of experts under the supervision of Claudio Parisi Presicce, the Capitoline Superintendent of Cultural Heritage.
Recording the fragments and references
The Colossus of Constantine was an early 4th-century monumental statue depicting emperor Constantine the Great. It is believed a pagan statue was repurposed to celebrate Constantine's reign and the recognition of Christianity as a legal religion within the empire. The statue was later broken and pillaged for bronze, before its re-discovery in the 15th century following an excavation at the Basilica of Maxentius. Michelangelo placed and arranged the remaining marble fragments of the Colossus on display inside the courtyard of the Palazzo dei Conservatori (today part of the Musei Capitolini in Rome), including an additional right hand.
At the end of March 2022, Pedro Miró, Otto Lowe and Imran Khan travelled to the Musei Capitolini to record the ten fragments in high-resolution using photogrammetry and LiDAR. Some of the fragments were placed up against the walls of the courtyard, making their recording challenging. However, all data was implemented with great accuracy during the 3D modelling phase.
Another recording carried out by Osama Dawod acquired the data of an additional fragment from the Parco Archeologico del Colosseo. A gypsum copy of a statue of Emperor Claudius as Jupiter, inside the Ara Pacis Museum, was also recorded to be used as a reference for the general posing of the sculpture.
In the reconstruction, the ten fragments which were recorded and used were:
The high-resolution data and 3D models of each fragment were given to the museums responsible for the objects as part of the condition monitoring of the sculptures.
Making the 3D model
Over the course of several months Irene Gaumé, Factum Arte's 3D sculptor, worked in close collaboration with the team of curators and experts at the Musei Capitolini in order to recreate the colossal statue's shape, pose and the way the paludamentum (a type of cloak worn by generals) was draped on the body. Each fragment was 3D modelled and placed on a digital body created using statues in similar poses as references - such as Emperor Claudius as Jupiter from the Ara Pacis Museum, a seated Jupiter from the State Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg and a Hercules from the Museo Nazionale Romano.
The engineering team meanwhile was developing the overall inner structure and materials, working in tandem with the team at Fondazione Prada to ensure the sculpture would fit inside the spaces of the Cisterna and could be transported and assembled on site.
Statue and shaded render of Emperor Claudius as Jupiter © Factum Foundation
The fragments in a digital environment and the recreated body and cloak © Irene Gaumé for Factum Foundation
From digital to physical
In May 2022, the work of digital mediation into physical form began in Factum's workshop. It was decided to visually distinguish the facsimile fragments from the digitally reconstructed body and cloak.
The recorded digital data of each fragment was rematerialised as 1:1 3D prints, which were used to make positive casts in reinforced resin. The surface was coated with a custom gesso mix and painted to resemble the original marble, weathered by the exposure to the elements. The result was perfect facsimiles of the original fragments.
The recreated sections of the body were made in polyurethane, coated in several layers of resin mixed with marble powder and mica, to achieve a clean neutral marble-white colour. The cloak was made in milled polystyrene, coated with acrylic resin mixed with bronze powder, over which a distressed gold foil gilding was applied.
The scale of the project involved more than half of the Factum team working on different sections of the sculpture in different areas of the workshop. Juan Carlos Arias, Angel Jorquera, Miguel Hernando, José Menéndez, Mari Pascual, Aniuska Martin, Charlie Westgarth, Pedro Salafranca, Florencio Martínez and Silvia Álvarez were joined by Javier Botella, Mar García, Monserrat Fornés, Guillermo Mugica and Raul Candil.
The team was led by Francesco Cigognetti, Factum's Technical Director.
Preparing the head fragment for moulding © Oak Taylor-Smith for Factum Foundation
Test assembly © Otto Lowe
Details of the sculpture assembled over the inner structure © Adam Lowe
Painting the recreated cloak © Oak Taylor-Smith for Factum Foundation
The final facsimile fragments and recreations in Factum's workshop © Oak Taylor-Smith for Factum Foundation
Assembling the Colossus
After completing the final inner structure and the base, a team of six assembled the thirty sections of the Colossus over the course of a week inside the exhibition space at the Fondazione Prada.
Exhibition view of 'Recycling Beauty'. Photo Roberto Marossi, courtesy of Fondazione Prada