View the Uffizi’s Ancient Treasures From Afar, in 3D

A new website has digitized 300 objects from the Florence gallery’s Greek and Roman collection

Indiana University

One of the most famous works of art in Florence’s Uffizi Gallery is the Medici Venus, an ancient Greek statue that depicts the goddess of love looking over her shoulder, her arms strategically concealing her naked body.

To fully appreciate its masterful detail—the curls of Venus’ locks, the texture of her eyes, the register of faint surprise on her face—you could, of course, travel to the Uffizi. But as Henri Neuendorf reports for artnet news, a new project headed by the University of Indiana allows art enthusiasts to view the Medici Venus and hundreds of other Uffizi treasures in 3D, without leaving home.

The Uffizi Digitization Project, which launched last week, includes 3D scans of more than 300 items from the gallery’s Greek and Roman collection, including ancient statues, Renaissance-era copies of ancient statues, busts, funerary altars, sarcophagi and relics that exist only in fragments today.

“We have already digitized more works of classical sculpture than has ever been done in a single museum,” Bernard Frischer, a professor of informatics and director of the university's Virtual World Heritage Laboratory, says in a statement.

The project, which was carried out in collaboration with the Uffizi, includes both objects from the gallery and the Villa Corsini, a complex where the Uffizi stores works that are not on display. The 3D models have been published on a number of different online platforms, including the Italian Ministry of Culture's internal conservation database, the Uffizi's website and the Virtual World Heritage Laboratory's Digital Sculpture Project.

In addition to making the gallery’s ancient sculptures accessible to people around the world, the digitization project lets scholars and art enthusiasts view the works from angles that would be impossible to see in a museum setting, Fabrizio Paolucci, the Uffizi’s curator of classical art and coordinator of scientific activities, explains in Visitors to the new website can zoom in on the objects, spin them around, tilt them backward and forward. The 3D models also preserve a detailed snapshot of the relics, which can help conservationists keep an eye out for signs of degradation.

While there is already plenty to see on the Uffizi Digitization Project’s website, the recent launch marks just the first phase of the new initiative. Frischer says his team is on track to finish digitizing the Uffizi’s entire collection of 1,250 Greek and Roman sculptures by 2020. And other institutions, like the Getty Villa in Malibu and the National Archaeological Museum of Naples, have reportedly expressed interest in launching similar projects.

“I have shown the models ... to many museum professionals in the United States and abroad,” Frischer reveals in the Indiana University statement. “They have been uniformly impressed.”

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