Experts Recreate Looming 43-Foot-Tall Statue of Constantine Using 3D Modeling

Although only fragments of the 1,700-year-old colossus remain, experts hope to paint a fuller picture for the public with a new installation at Rome’s Capitoline Museums

Replica of Constantine's statue
The 43-foot-tall replica of Constantine's statue was constructed to mirror the dimensions of the fourth-century original. Stefano Montesi / Corbis via Getty Images

In the fourth century C.E., the Roman emperor Constantine commissioned a nearly 43-foot-tall statue of himself looming over his subjects. Today, the emperor’s legacy remains—he played a pivotal role in spreading the Christian faith—but the statue has crumbled. All that survives are ten incomplete marble fragments of his head, hands and other body parts.

While seeing the original statue is impossible, a nonprofit in Madrid called the Factum Foundation hopes to achieve the next best thing: The organization has carefully reconstructed the colossus.

“It’s through the evidence of those fragments, working rather like forensic scientists, with all the experts from different disciplines, we were able to build back something that is absolutely awe-inspiring,” Adam Lowe, Factum Foundation’s founder, tells the New York Times’ Elisabetta Povoledo.

The fourth-century fragments were discovered in 1486. Over the course of three days, the Factum Foundation scanned those pieces and used the data to create a 3D model, relying on historical research and expert opinions to recreate the missing pieces.

“We’re not trying to build a fake object,” Lowe adds. “We’re trying to build something that physically and emotionally engages and that intellectually stimulates you.”

Surving statue pieces
Surviving pieces from Constantine's original statue are on display at the Capitoline Museums. Stefano Costantino / SOPA Images / LightRocket via Getty Images

The new colossus, wielding a scepter in one hand and an orb in the other, was recently placed in one of the Capitoline Museums’ side gardens. (It was originally unveiled during the 2022 “Recycling Beauty” exhibition in Milan). The statue’s body is made from a mixture of resin, polyurethane and marble powder, while the cloth tunic is made from gold leaf and plaster.

Although it is impossible to know how closely the replica resembles the original, experts say the new statue captures the colossus’ grandiosity in a way that broken fragments can only suggest.

“In this statue, there’s not just beauty; there’s the violence of power,” Salvatore Settis, an archaeologist and one of the curators of the Milan exhibition, tells the Associated Press.

According to the Times, recent research indicates that the ancient sculpture was reworked from another large-scale statue, which depicted the god Jupiter.

In addition to the new statue, museum-goers will be able to see nine of the surviving pieces from the original, which are part of the Capitoline Museums’ permanent collection.

The new replica is just a starting point for the Factum Foundation. Another version of the sculpture will be installed near Hadrian’s Wall in England.

“It’s somewhere between documenting and recreating and interpreting,” Lowe tells Euronews Theo Farrant. “But I really hope that this is the beginning of a revolution about how to share and how to show.”

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