There’s something surreal about the whole scan/edit/print process that’s hard to describe. Like a dream, it needs to be experienced to be appreciated. But if there are sculptures that resonate with and might be able to communicate some of that weirdness, the ancient bronze Head of Hypnos in the British Museum is one of them. The subject: the god of sleep, father to Morpheus, god of dreams—the design: the piece’s odd asymmetry, the single wing, and the missing wing, the ambiguous gender. The whole package makes for a remarkable artifact of otherworldliness which has spoken to people across time.

HypnosOriginalIn 1909, when he was on his way back from a tour of Syria, T. E. Lawrence (“Lawrence of Arabia”) passed through Naples and wrote a friend “The bronzes in the Naples museum are beyond words.” Lawrence visited a Neapolitan bronze foundry and bought a cheap, flawed freehand copy of the bronze Hypnos head now in the British Museum.

Lawrence loved his Hypnos. He wrote to a friend: “nothing, not even the dawn—can disturb me in my curtains: only the slow crumblings of the coals in the fire: they get so red & throw such splendid glimmerings on the Hypnos.” He also wrote “I would rather possess a fine piece of sculpture than anything in the world.”

The whereabouts of Lawrence’s Hypnos are unrecorded, but a friend of mine has good reason to believe he owns it (but that’s another story), so I’m in a bit of a friendly competition to get one of my own—and now I have it.

I scanned Hypnos in the British Museum using Autodesk 123D Catch, printed it in PLA on a MakerBot Replicator, and coated it in bronze with a blue-green patina in an attempt to make it appear as old and hypnotic as the original.

—Cosmo Wenman
November 28, 2012