In early March, a team of photogrammetry and LiDAR experts from Factum Foundation travelled to Easter Island at the suggestion of Francisco Torres Hochstetter, to start a high-resolution recording initiative made possible by a generous donation from Sir Paul Ruddock.
During this trip, Pedro Miró and Ferdinand Saumarez Smith recorded an object regarded as an "eye" of the Moai, found in 1978 and now in the Museo Antropológico Sebastián Englert. The data has been processed into a 3D render that can be shared with experts to help with further studies.
Will it be possible to match the "eyes” to specific Moai in the future? High-resolution recording and new technologies are making many things possible.
In November 2019, two students from Saudi Arabia, Jawharah Albalawi and Abdulrahim Sugair, started a two-week photogrammetry training in Factum Foundation’s headquarters in Madrid. The training was the second step of a collaborative project between Factum Foundation, Art Jameel, and the Royal Commission of AlUla (RCU).
It was conducted by Factum’s 3D expert Otto Lowe and Art Jameel's senior programme manager for heritage, Fatima Mazeh, who spent two weeks in the town of AlUla in 2018, teaching a group of fifteen residents how to record cultural heritage. The local students were first taught of the core concepts and technical processes behind photogrammetry and were then able to practically apply this knowledge to the recording of three different petroglyph sites in the vicinity of AlUla.
This course in Madrid aimed to teach them the more complex elements of photogrammetry so that they could return to AlUla and teach fellow Saudi nationals how to record cultural heritage using the techniques. This will enable them to create a local team with the knowledge, skills and experience to responsibly safeguard their cultural heritage, in line with the RCU's Cultural Manifesto and overall plans to welcome the world to AlUla in October 2020.
Factum Foundation has developed a multi-layered browser that enables the visualisation of the 3D scanned relief data, as well as the colour data of digitised artifacts, at an extremely high resolution. The multi-layered viewers allow you to move around the scanned surfaces and zoom into macro-level photographic data with a resolution of 400 dpi on a scale of 1:1. This allows the inspection of every single detail of the artifact, from any computer screen or mobile device.
Surface relief data has been recorded either with Factum’s Lucida 3D Scanner or with photogrammetry. Colour data has been recorded using either panoramic photography or photogrammetry and all colour management has been performed by Factum. Please note that different monitors, display screens or browsers can all give different impressions of the colour data.
Other data such as X-Ray and Infrared, if shown in a viewer, has been provided by the owner of the object and mapped onto the relief or colour data by Factum.
This new video will help you understand how to navigate the browsers.
Access Tutankhamun's Tomb browser
Access Factum's browsers
In early March, a team from Factum Foundation travelled to Easter Island to collaborate on a series of projects with the Museo Antropológico Sebastián Englert. The first items to be recorded were a collection of painted stone panels from the Birdman Cult period that were removed from their original location at a site called Orongo by the Thomson expedition in 1886.
The team also recorded the only female Moai on the island of Rapa Nui, some petroglyphs and an unusual object that is believed to be the eye of one of the giant Moai.
Following the trip, made possible by a generous donation from Sir Paul Ruddock, further projects at various sites around the island are under discussion with Francisco Torres Hochstetter and members of the Indigenous community who care for the cultural heritage on the island. A training and transfer of skills and technology is also under discussion. In line with Factum Foundation’s policy, all the data recorded belongs in full to the custodians of the objects for all current and future applications.
The Tretyakov Gallery (Moscow) has produced a short film about how recording Kazimir Malevich's Black Square (1915) with Factum Foundation is helping conservators and researchers find out more about what lies beneath the surface of the most famous painting of the Russian avant-garde.
Factum Foundation captured high-resolution 3D and colour data of the painting in 2018. Later, 3D and colour were merged with X-ray and infrared data produced by the Tretyakov to create an online data viewer - the digital facsimile - that allows the user to see the images in relation to one another rather than in isolation.
A team of archaeologists led by former Egyptian minister of antiquities Mamdouh Eldamaty, while conducting a radar survey over the area surrounding Tutankhamun's tomb in the Valley of the Kings, has detected evidence of an additional chamber behind the wall paintings. The theory by Nicholas Reeves, backed in 2015 by Factum Foundation's high-resolution recordings of the tomb, hinted at the possibility of hidden chambers containing Nefertiti's resting place. If verified, the media claims it could be "the biggest archaeological discovery ever". You can find the full article on Nature here.
Find out more about Factum Foundation's work in Tutankhamon's tomb
The facsimile of the Djehuty Garden, commissioned by the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) to be part of the protective framework built to safeguard the original in Luxor, has been installed to protect the fragile ancient structure from further erosion.
Dated to circa 2000 BCE, the dawn of the Twelfth Dynasty of Egypt, the mud-brick structure stands as an unprecedented example of an Egyptian garden of this type remaining to this day.
Through the Theban Necropolis Preservation Initiative and the 3D Recording, Archiving and Training Centre at Stoppelaëre House, which received the patronage of the Egyptian National Commission for UNESCO last year, Factum Foundation is committed to scanning every known fragment removed from the tomb of Seti I and provide a secure archiving system to safeguard the data.
Following the high-resolution recording in 3D and colour of the fragments scattered among the British Museum, the Pergamonmuseum, the Archaeology Museums in Florence and Bologna, the Louvre, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and various private collections around the world, the 8,000 fragments discovered by the University of Basel in the tomb of Ramesses X are in the process of being recorded through the use of photogrammetry.
We thank the University of Basel, the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities and Florence Mauric-Barberio for their support.
Find out more about this project
Factum Foundation and Re-Form Heritage are pleased and encouraged by the news that the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, The Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP, has called in the planning decision on the Whitechapel Bell Foundry.
The historic Whitechapel Bell Foundry is Britain’s oldest single-purpose industrial building where Big Ben, the Liberty Bell, Bow Bells and many of the world’s great bells were made. Developer Raycliff Whitechapel LLP, the current owners, submitted a planning application to convert the site into a boutique hotel and hospitality venue, which Tower Hamlets Development Committee voted to approve in November despite significant concerns about the suitability of the proposal by thousands of individuals and heritage organisations. The call in means that the Raycliff Whitechapel LLP planning application will now be subject to a public inquiry.
A campaign to save the site by reinstating foundry activity in Whitechapel has local, national and international support. A partnership between Factum Foundation and Re-Form Heritage has been formed to deliver a financially viable 21st-century foundry. The partnership draws upon Re-Form Heritage’s experience regenerating unique industrial heritage sites and Factum Foundation’s internationally renowned preservation and training work that merges new technology and craft skills.
All 16 paintings that once formed the Polittico Griffoni are being reunited in Bologna for the first time since 1725. It is a great moment for the city and it has taken almost two years to secure the loan agreements from nine institutions. The exhibition will open on 12th March 2020 and will be accompanied by a second exhibition focussing on Factum Foundation’s work to apply technology to preservation is different ways.
Walter Benjamin starts his 1935 essay The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction with a very positive quote written by Paul Valéry (Aesthetics, 1928, “The Conquest of Ubiquity”):
"For the last twenty years neither matter nor space nor time has been what it was from time immemorial. We must expect great innovations to transform the entire technique of the arts, thereby affecting artistic invention itself and perhaps even bringing about an amazing change in our very notion of art.”
The altarpiece was commissioned for the Church of San Petronio and celebrates the life and works of the Valencian Saint Vincent Ferrer. The predella is one of the most complex and obscure narratives depicting his miracles. St Lucy holding her eyes as if they were a pair of lunettes is a highly original depiction of a rather grotesque scene.
On the 4th and 5th February 2020, a team from Factum Foundation will carry out the high-resolution digitisation in 3D and colour of Old Woman Cooking Eggs by Diego Velázquez at the National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh.
Painted between 1618 and 1623 during Velázquez’s early life in Seville, Old Woman is considered one of the most emblematic of the works painted while he lived in his hometown. The digitisation marks the first phase of a wider collaboration between Factum Foundation and CEEH (Centro de Estudios Europa Hispánica) that will culminate in a display and exhibitions project for the new Casa Natal de Velázquez in Seville, which is projected to open in 2021.
Working together with CEEH’s director José Luis Colomer, Factum Foundation will carry out the digital recording of several paintings from the artist’s early years with the aim of producing an ‘exact’ facsimile of each work – a facsimile that will be indistinguishable from the original to the naked eye. The paintings will be scanned using state-of-the-art technology to capture high-resolution relief and colour information of their surfaces. The facsimiles will be made at Factum Arte’s Madrid workshops using the data recorded and employing new technologies combined with traditional artistic and craft techniques. The data will also provide vital documentation about the current conservation state of each recorded work.
Find out more about the Casa Natal de Velázquez
The restoration of the Stoppelaëre House, carried out in 2017 by the Tarek Waly Center with support from Factum Foundation, has been nominated for the ICCROM-Sharjah Award for the Conservation of Cultural Heritage in the Arab region 2019. This Biennial Award seeks to honour and reward outstanding work that contributes to the protection and vitality of tangible cultural heritage in the Arab region. The Stoppelaëre House currently houses the Theban Necropolis Preservation Initiative (TNPI) headquarters in Luxor, working towards its aim to train and equip local actors in the uses of technology to preserve and promote cultural heritage.
Find out more about the project
Factum Foundation and Carène Foundation are working together with the Trust for African Rock Art (TARA) and the University of Calabar (UNICAL) on a a project aimed at documenting, conserving and raising awareness about the Bakor monoliths.
The upcoming exhibition at British Museum in November 2020 will be traveling to the recording sites in Nigeria and then will be installed in Alok as a permanent display thanks to the generous grant of the Carène Foundation.
The Advanced Preservation Technology Studio, taught at Columbia University's GSAPP in collaboration with Factum Foundation, has concluded one more semester with remarkable results.
This year the students employed a range of 3D recording technologies to document specific elements of art and architecture in the Palace and Church of San Giovanni di Malta in Venice. Crossing boundaries between academic and professional practice, the team worked on the digitisation, processing, analysis and reproduction of the obtained data as part of a comprehensive approach to the preservation of this unique building.
The on-site fieldwork was carried out under the supervision of Factum Foundation's experts, operating from the new centre ARCHiVe (Analysis and Recording of Cultural Heritage in Venice) at the Fondazione Giorgio Cini on the island of San Giorgio. The work demonstrated once again the importance of digital preservation, especially in fragile locations like Venice where, as we saw in last November's peak flooding, historic artefacts can suffer tragic damage and change for ever.
Factum Foundation is working on an exciting new initiative to bring some of the masterpieces of Spanish art to County Durham, UK. Led by the art collector Jonathan Ruffer, the Auckland Project is working to regenerate large sections of the town of Bishop Auckland.
The fully restored Auckland Castle, for hundreds of years the seat of a powerful bishopric, was opened to the public last month, and is again home to Zurbaran’s famous series Jacob and his twelve sons, bought in 1756 by Bishop Trevor. Factum Foundation has been commissioned by the Auckland Project to create a digital resource and produce facsimiles of other major paintings and sculptural works for display within the new Spanish Gallery – the first museum in the UK to be devoted to Spanish art. Factum is a Spanish foundation and is honoured to be working on this important initiative.
Among the works being rematerialised are Berrugete's masterpiece, the sepulchre for Cardinal Tavera, and El Greco's portrait of Cardinal Tavera. Both works are from the Hospital of Cardinal Tavera in Toledo and are evidence of the close collaboration between the Fundación Casa Ducal de Medinaceli, the Auckland Project and Factum Foundation.
El Greco's tabernacle has also been recorded and a digital restoration is underway. One of El Greco's few sculptures was housed in a gilded architectural construction that was paraded through the streets of Toledo. The digital reconstruction uses the material evidence available and historical research to reconstruct the theatrical impact of this dynamic sculpture.
The campaign to save the church bell foundry at Whitechapel has entered a new and positive phase. On 3rd December the UK Secretary of State for Housing, Communities, and Local Government issued a Holding Direction to the Tower Hamlets Development Committee, preventing them from proceeding with the planning application for change of use to a boutique hotel. All decisions about the foundry will now be made by the Secretary of State and not by Tower Hamlets.
While the future of the foundry is not yet secured, this is a moment for celebration and a firm step on the way to reacquiring the historic buildings and converting them into cutting edge foundry facilities. Over the next few days, Factum Foundation and the UK Historic Buildings Preservation Trust will start on the next stage of the campaign - watch this space for further developments.
To find out about this campaign and about the proposals for the foundry put forward by Factum Foundation and the UK Historic Buildings Preservation Trust, click here.
More news about this collaboration with Scuderie del Quirinale - Ales will be released soon but we can say that it is part of the celebrations that will surround the 500th Anniversary of Raphael's death next year. We will keep you updated.
The planning meeting to decide the future of the Whitechapel Bell Foundry will take place on 14th November. This historic institution, London’s oldest continuous manufacturing business, is threatened with conversion into a luxury hotel. While the property developer, Raycliff Whitechapel LLP, claims that bell casting will continue at the site, this will be merely in a token capacity, with no capacity for any serious casting projects.
The UKHBPT and Factum Foundation have put forward a proposal to restore the building and re-equip it as a technologically advanced bell foundry. This would include a centre for the study of historic casting methods run by Andrew Lacey, a historic casting specialist advising the V&A and British Museum, and the continuation of sand and loam casting of bells led by the foundry’s former tower bell manager Nigel Lacey. There would also be a team dedicated to 3D scanning, and recording the acoustics of, bells around the country - information which would be used to create an open-access archive. The entire space would be used for foundry and foundry-related work, including educational and training facilities. The result would be a space dedicated both to preservation and to new fabrication, providing an extraordinary resource with global reach for the district of Whitechapel.
The UKHBPT/Factum Foundation proposal is supported by the local community, the East London Mosque, Jeremy Corbyn, the local MP John McDonnell, the V&A, the Bartlett, local heritage bodies, the blog Spitalfields Life, many musicians and artists (including Michael Nyman, Antony Gormley, and Grayson Perry), and the majority of the Tower Hamlets councillors.