Through A Scanner, Skulpturhalle First Results (10/23/2013)

20131021 Venus de Milo and Winged Victory on sideboard by Cosmo Wenman

I spent a week in the Skulpturhalle Basel plaster cast museum in late September. I got some great 3D captures and I’ll start publishing them soon, starting with Venus de Milo and Winged Victory. Thanks again to the Skulpturhalle for giving me access to their collection, and to Autodesk and its Reality Capture division for their financial support, without which I would not have been able to undertake this project.

The Skulpturhalle’s plaster cast of Venus de Milo was commissioned in 1850, and was likely made by the Louvre’s own atelier. It is a very high quality cast, and I was able to get a very nice 3D capture of it. You can see a low-res preview of the model here.

The Skulpturhalle’s plaster of Winged Victory of Samothrace was made in 1892, and is documented to have been made by the Louvre atelier under the direction of Eugène Arrondelle. It is also of very high quality, and I got a complete, high quality capture of it. Here’s a preview.

Pictured above are two 20″ tall 3D prints I am currently working on. They will make their public debut at the 3D Printshows in London and Paris next month, and I will be publishing the 3D files shortly thereafter.

The Paris show is in the Carrousel du Louvre expo space, right next to the Louvre, which means that my prints will be a few hundred feet from the originals. I can’t think of a better venue.

In an interesting wrinkle, the Louvre just recently removed Winged Victory from public view for the first time in 130 years, for a nine month restoration. So my 3D printed copy will be on display just a stone’s throw from the Louvre’s Daru staircase, where the original will be conspicuously absent. The Louvre is soliciting donations from the public to support the multimillion dollar restoration project, which will include making a 3D survey of the original. I’ll be publishing my 3D data so that anyone can 3D print a copy. Will the Louvre publish theirs?

Here are snapshots of just a few of the pieces that turned out very well. A bust of the Borghese Ares, a bust of Homer, and Athena Velletri.

I have several more like these, and better.

And while poking around in the Skulpturhalle’s storage cabinets, I stumbled on a piece that isn’t listed in their public catalog (which focuses on ancient Greek and Roman works). It’s an extremely high quality Italian plaster cast of a Renaissance treasure and work of political propaganda — an enigmatic Florentine icon of power and status. I captured it, but I need to work on it more and figure out the right way to present it. But it’s great.

Stay tuned.


Update: I found a direct sponsor for my project: Autodesk. (9/10/2013)

When my Kickstarter campaign fell through, Autodesk’s Reality Capture division very generously offered to sponsor my project.

All the 3D captures I’ve done over the last 18 months were processed with Autodesk’s free application, 123D Catch. They’ve recently released their new, professional version, ReCap Photo, and I will be making extensive use of it in my project. It’s essentially a super-charged version of 123D Catch. All its pixel-crunching algorithms have been re-written from the ground up, it can process up to 250 photos per object, and it makes use of the full pixel count of each photo. I’ve been trying it out for about a month now, and getting really great results with dense, complete, and detailed meshes. Using ReCap in the Skulpturhalle, I’ll be able to get even better results than I’d originally hoped for.

Autodesk will be using my project as a case-study in their own efforts to showcase ReCap’s capabilities. Considering that my original plan was to publish all the data, show people how it was made, and encourage collectors and museums to capture and publish their own data, this is really a perfect match. The project is still independent and entirely my own, but with Autodesk’s financial support it can actually move forward.

I’m shooting for publishing (and 3D printing) the world’s first publicly available 3D surveys of the Venus de Milo, Winged Victory, Medusa Rondanini, and more, in time for the London and Paris 3D Printshows this November (where the show organizers have generously offered to exhibit whatever I manage to complete in time). Then I’ll follow up by publishing and busting loose as many more archetypes as I can by year’s end.

I will be doing my surveys in the Skulpturhalle from September 17 through the September 22, and I’ll tweet progress photos here as I go.


Status (7/3/2013)

My Kickstarter campaign failed to reach its fundraising goal, but that does not necessarily mean my project, Through A Scanner, Skulpturhalle is dead.

While the Kickstarter drew support from only 106 backers, those backers were enthusiastic and excited about a future with greater access to art for everyone.

The campaign received national and international media coverage (see here), and I continue to receive inquiries from people and institutions that are just starting to engage and grapple with its implications.

It must be a measure of something that this project received the attention it did, yet not the broader support it needed. I’ll take it as a sign that it might have been ever so slightly too far ahead of its time. I expect projects like it to succeed within the year.

I am currently in discussions with potential backers who may fully sponsor my project directly. I have some very promising leads, and that would not have been possible without the support from my backers, and their help spreading the word.

I hope to have good news soon, and I’ll post updates here and on twitter.


Through A Scanner, Skulpturhalle

You can read all the details about my (now failed) Kickstarter, Through A Scanner, Skulpturhalle here, but here’s the short version: my goal is to 3D scan a selection of plaster casts of important, archetypal sculptures at the Skulpturhalle Basel museum. I will then publish the scans and 3D printable files into the public domain, copyright-free, so that anyone, anywhere, can download, alter, adapt, or 3D print them for themselves. It’s a way to broaden access to sculptural masterworks to everyone.

The Skulpturhalle has been preserving high quality 19th and 20th century plaster casts of these ancient masterworks (and many, many more). You can help me prioritize the scan targets by clicking on the titles and re-tweeting your favorites:

Medusa Rondanini
Venus de Milo
Hera Farnese
Charioteer of Delphi
Bronze Portrait of Alexander the Great
Tivoli Ares
Somzée Ares
Laocoön and His Sons
Athena from Marsyas Group
Artemision Bronze / God From The Sea
Boxer of Quirinal
Head of Athena Lemnia
Head of Ares Ludovisi
The Kaufmann Head
Athena Parthenos
Wounded Amazon Sciarra Type
Kritios Boy
Head of Farnese Heracles
Winged Victory
Praying Boy
Kore of Beroia
Pseudo-Seneca / Aristophanes
Molossian Hound
Head of Odysseus from Sperlonga Group
Head of Menelaus from Pasquino Group
Spinario / Boy with Thorn
Dancing Faun

KPBS: 3D Printers Allow Home Replication of Famous Sculptures (7/9/2013)

Wenman’s growing archive of documented works for 3D printing puts him ahead of much of the museum world.

Continue reading →


The Archtypes Burst In (7/21/2013)

From Umberto Eco’s essay Casablanca, or, The Clichés are Having a Ball:

“Thus Casablanca is not just one film. It is many films, an anthology. Made haphazardly, it probably made itself, if not actually against the will of its authors and actors, then at least beyond their control. And this is the reason it works, in spite of aesthetic theories and theories of film making. For in it there unfolds with almost telluric force the power of Narrative in its natural state, without Art intervening to discipline it.

And so we can accept it when characters change mood, morality, and psychology from one moment to the next, when conspirators cough to interrupt the conversation if a spy is approaching, when whores weep at the sound of “La Marseillaise.” When all the archtypes burst in shamelessly, we reach Homeric depths. Two cliches make us laugh. A hundred cliches move us. For we sense dimly that the cliches are talking among themselves, and celebrating a reunion. Just as the height of pain may encounter sensual pleasure, and the height of perversion border on mystical energy, so too the height of banality allows us to catch a glimpse of the sublime. Something has spoken in place of the director. If nothing else, it is a phenomenon worthy of awe.”

I’d like to see more of this kind of thing, and bringing the archetypes of three-dimensional artwork into the reunion seems not only feasible, but imperative.

The most valuable and durable place for art to be preserved is in an endless series of living memories and in a living, vibrant, and anarchic popular culture. The names and forms will be changed and lost over time, but the substance can survive, adapt, and reconfigure. As the icons converse, they’ll create new meaning, new rhymes, and new jokes—always building on the past, always creating more and more and more. Digitizing all of it is an important step in making the Narrative as rich as possible and in making it last.

(The Greek and Roman sculptures below are targets from my 3D scanning project.)


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