The splendor of ancient Rome towers over again with a version of the Colossus
It may not be original, exact, or very old at all.
But the colossal statue of the fourth-century emperor, Constantine the Great, is a recent monument to Rome, at least: a tribute to the ancient city’s grandeur, and its endless capacity to reshape itself.
In this case, the remanufacturing process was literal.
The 43-foot-tall seated statue, which overlooks visitors, has been painstakingly reconstructed by the Madrid-based digital art group, Factum Foundation, from the 10 known fragments of the original statue. The reconstructed statue was installed in a garden at the Capitoline Museums in Rome this week, near where the Temple of Jupiter, the most important temple in ancient Rome, once stood.
Adam Lowe, founder of the Factum Foundation, which originally created the statue, told Exhibition 2022 At the Prada Foundation in Milan.
The head and most of the other parts of the colossal statue were discovered in 1486, in the ruins of a building not far from the Colosseum. They were transferred to what eventually became the Capitol Collection, and nine of those ancient parts — including a colossal head, feet, and hand — are on permanent display in museums.
Salvatore Setis, an archaeologist and one of the curators of the Prada exhibition, said that the pieces found fame from the moment they were excavated. “They were engraved by prominent artists from the 15th century onward,” he said, adding that the statue also captured the attention of more modern artists such as Robert Rauschenberg, who famously photographed the pieces in the 1950s.
Five hundred years and many technological advances later, a team from the Factum Foundation spent three days using photogrammetry, a 3D camera scan, to record fragments in the Capitol courtyard. Over the course of several months, the high-resolution data became 3D prints, which were used to cast replicas, made from acrylic resin and marble powder.
It was then combined with other parts of the body – those lost by Constantine – which were constructed after historical research and discussions with curators and experts. A statue of Emperor Claudius as the god Jupiter, now on the ancient Roman altar known as the Ara Pacis, was used as a model for the pose and scroll, which was originally in bronze.
“With the evidence provided by those fragments, working like forensic scientists, with all the experts from different disciplines, we were able to reconstruct something absolutely amazing,” Lowe said, adding that new technologies offer museums new things. Research and publishing methods.
“We are not trying to build a fake body,” he added. “We’re trying to build something that engages you physically and emotionally and stimulates you intellectually.”
Recent studies of the statue have indicated that the statue of Constantine itself was recreated from an existing colossal statue, perhaps depicting Jupiter. There are irrefutable signs that the face of the particularly colossal statue has been reworked, according to Claudio Parisi Brisici, Rome’s chief arts officer, director of the Capitoline Museums and an expert on the colossal statue.
In fact, some experts theorize that the statue was originally a cult statue for a temple dedicated to Jupiter – the Temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus – meaning that Constantine’s version has finally returned home.
“We cannot be sure that it is the same statue, but there is some possibility that it was,” Settis said. Constantine, the first emperor to convert to Christianity, may have specifically chosen a statue of Jupiter as an icon for himself. “That’s one hypothesis,” he said. “It would be a passage through Western Europe, from the pagan empire to the Christian empire.”
Officials said the statue will remain on display in Capitoline Park until at least the end of 2025. Where it will go next, and whether it will withstand the ravages of time better than its broken origin, remain open questions.
But its creators at least tried to make it strong.
“It will be as fine as anything else out there,” Mr. Lowe said. “We hope. Of course, even during the opening there was a pigeon sitting on his head. I’m afraid there’s not much you can do about it.”“