Download model files here:

“Supreme western works of art, like Oedipus Rex and Hamlet, preserve their indeterminacy through all interpretation. They are morally ungraspable. Even the Venus de Milo gained everything by losing her arms.” — Camille Paglia, Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson

In the 19th century, important works of sculptural art were reproduced in plaster. Artisans carefully made molds of the ancient originals, and high-quality reproductions were then cast in plaster to be bought, sold, and traded by museums, universities, art schools, and private collectors everywhere. Plaster casts of the 2nd century BC Venus de Milo were very popular, and would have been found in cast collections all over the world.

But the plaster cast tradition faded in the early 1900s. Cast collections were broken up, sold off piece by piece, and in some cases actually physically destroyed. Today there are only a few sizeable collections of plaster casts left in existence.

The Skulpturhalle Basel museum in Switzerland maintains one of the world’s few surviving large collections of plaster casts. They have a very high quality cast of Venus de Milo, which was commissioned by the University of Basel and carefully cast by the Louvre’s own atelier in 1850.

In September 2013, with the museum’s permission and the financial support of Autodesk’s Reality Capture division, I spent a week working in the Skulpturhalle, taking 3D surveys of my choice of casts. I took hundreds of carefully staged photos of Venus and used Autodesk’s ReCap Photo photogrammetry software to process them into a high-quality 3D model, which I have published here:

This model of Venus de Milo is a modern artifact and direct descendent of the plaster cast tradition, which is poised for a 3D captured, 3D printed, digital renaissance. It is to my knowledge the first high-quality 3D survey of the Venus de Milo to be freely published, and I am pleased to be able to offer you direct access to its ancient, enigmatic, and graceful contours, which descend to us through an unbroken chain from antiquity — from the Greek island of Milos 2,100 years ago, to the Louvre, to the Skulpturhalle, through my camera lens, to you.

You can read more about my project, Through A Scanner, Skulpturhalle, at I will be publishing more results, including Winged Victory of Samothrace and the Medusa Rondanini, among others, and cataloging them here: I post occasional updates on Twitter as well:

If you know anyone who would be interested in sponsoring more of this kind of work by me, please send them my way.


ā€” Cosmo Wenman


The 3D print shown in the video above was made with white PLA and finished in patinated copper. It’s the first of its kind, and it was shown at the London and Paris 3D Printshows in November 2013. You can buy it here. I’m also offering 3D prints of Venus de Milo through my Shapeways shop.
I can also cast Venus for you in bronze or stainless steel, in any size.


Scan Information, Tools, and Specifications

Venus de Milo
Skulpturhalle Basel accession number 261
1850 plaster molded and cast from the original by the Louvre atelier, with only very slight evidence of parting lines, and a false patina likely added in the 1950s or 1960s.

Skulpturhalle Basel:
History of the Skulpturhalle and uses of plaster casts:

250 JPEGs processed with Autodesk’s ReCap Photo cloud-based photogrammetry application:, using every other third photo from 663 sequential positions, plus a selection of detail shots.

Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark II
Lens: Sigma EX 50mm
Using a wireless remote shutter release and a loose tripod for shots at eye level and below, and a tripod on extended legs with wheels for shots from above.

Camera settings:
.8 seconds
No flash
5616 x 3744 pixels per shot

Lighting: Normal museum lights plus three additional fixed spotlights, with diffuse light from skylight on a cloudy day.

Scaling, cropping, sectioning, and print preparation of the model was done with Blender, on an under-powered Windows 7 PC that is dying at this very moment, as I type.

Scale references in the raw unedited .obj:
The grey plinth Venus stands on is 690mm x 519mm x 337mm (345mm to the floor).
The white balance reference card is 254mm x 216mm.
The “Frauen und Sport” poster is 2000mm wide.
The “Weitere Sportarten” poster is 1700mm wide.
The “Wagenrennen und Reiten” poster is 2188mm wide and 915mm from the floor.

The model has been only very lightly re-sculpted with Meshmixer to fix one spot at the top of the head to fill a hole in the physical plaster cast, and to edit a capture defect, also at the top of the head, which the photos did not capture well. The valley where the back of the figure’s right arm meets the side of the torso was made slightly crisper. A few small areas in some of the valleys in the drapery are inverted, convex where they should be concave, but these were left as-is.



This project was made possible by the financial support of Autodesk’s Reality Capture division. My thanks to Tatjana Dzambazova and Brian Mathews there for making it happen, and to the people in Autodesk’s Reality Capture and 123D teams, who make incredible products. +

Thanks to Dr. Tomas Lochman, director of the Skulpturhalle Basel museum, for giving me access to the museum and allowing me to conduct this experiment in extending the reach of its incredible collection and the spirit that informed its creation.

I’d also like to thank the following:

Bernard Frischer, Professor of Informatics and Director of the Virtual World Heritage Laboratory, Indiana University, for his advice on where to try this experiment (e dove non), and for introducing me to Dr. Lochman.

FARO, for making a FARO Scanarm Edge laser scanner available to me, and to FARO’s Florian Fuenfschilling and Chris Bartschat for their expertise operating it and grabbing some laser scans of additional pieces for me.

Ralph Wiedemeier, who made and lent me a custom, 10′ tall tripod on wheels that was absolutely critical. He even delivered it to me from Zurich.

Bre Pettis and Kio Stark for early feedback and advice on my Kickstarter campaign. +

MakerBot for featuring my Kickstarter on Thingiverse.

Kerry Hogarth of the 3D Printshow, for giving me tickets to the London, Paris, and New York shows to use as Kickstarter rewards, and for exhibition space there to show off the project’s results.

Susan Self for her help promoting the Kickstarter to the media.

Virginia Postrel for her advice and help telling the story of the bigger picture as it’s been coming into focus.

Thank you to all my Kickstarter’s backers. Even though it wasn’t the viral hit we’d hoped for and the campaign fell through, without their support and help promoting it, the project would have remained dead in the water.

ā€” Cosmo