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The celebrated Madonna of Trapani sculpture goes digital with the help of Artec Space Spider

Challenge: An Italian 3D tech company received a request from a marble craftsman for a 3D reproduction of a plaster model depicting Our Lady of Trapani. A figurine as small as 15 cm and full of exquisite details required a next-gen 3D scanning solution to be digitized.

Solution: Artec Space Spider, Artec Studio

Result: A highly precise, faithful replica and a scale model of the original Madonna di Trapani, ready to be used for multiple purposes, such as supporting traditional funeral art, preserving the sacred heritage, and disseminating the cultural importance of the statue.

Why Artec? Artec 3D scanners have long been in the avant-garde of 3D digitization of cultural artifacts by creating their digital replicas to either bring them back to life or make them easily accessible to many more audiences across the globe.

Madonna di Trapani

Now in glorious 3D, Madonna di Trapani was originally created by Nino Pisani. Image courtesy of Lacro Tech

Sicilian masterpiece to be digitized

Throughout art history, sculptors have experimented with materials, with marble having an invariably special place in the hearts of both creators and admirers of art. If you’re ever in Sicily, in the charming city of Trapani, you have a chance to see one beautiful reason why. Wander into the Basilica of Maria Santissima Annunziata, also known as the Basilica of Madonna of Trapani, to see the eponymous marble statue. Deep in the basilica stands the Virgin of Parian marble, shining in its hushed, dim surroundings, holding the Child in her left arm as he leans forward to her hand.

Madonna di Trapani

The statuette is full of intriguing details worth exploring. Image courtesy of Lacro Tech

The statue, about 1.65 meters tall, is iconic for both art connoisseurs and Catholic believers. Arguably the creation of the Tuscan sculptor Nino Pisano, Madonna di Trapani is one of the most significant artifacts in Sicily both culturally and historically, which has led to numerous artists and artisans recreating its beauty over the years, in an eclectic range of mediums. One of these creators, a marble artist, approached his mission in a truly innovative way: to be able to reproduce the divine image, he decided to precisely digitize its scale model.

Careful choice of an innovative tool

This ambitious request was addressed to an Artec 3D partner, 3D Industrial Design Group. Distinguished professionals in 3D scanning, 3D printing, computer graphics, and more, the Italian conglomerate of companies works closely with various industries and top-tier Italian universities. Trusted with this delicate mission – to digitize the figurine of the sacred sculpture – the experts relied on Artec 3D technology and Lacro Tech, a part of the 3DID network formed by a dedicated group of tech professionals, professors, and university assistants who have consistently served as trusted guides into the world of 3D scanning, 3D modeling, and 3D printing.

“The customer asked us to do a test scan, before deciding whether to buy the scanner. They also asked a competitor to carry out the same test,” said 3DID’s Luigi Ferretti. “After these tests, they opted for Space Spider, because the result obtained with the Artec scanner was much more satisfying for precision and richness of detail.”

The choice was well justified: for a small-sized figurine with all its intricate geometry, Artec Space Spider turned out to be exactly what the customer was looking for. This high-resolution 3D scanner with an accuracy of up to 0.05 mm and ability to render complex surfaces, sharp edges, and thin parts, became a safe choice for capturing such a valuable item in minute details. Other factors that made Space Spider a clear winner were its lightweight and ease of use, letting any specialist simply point the device at the object, just as you would with a camera, and scan it.

Madonna di Trapani

Capturing every fine detail of the figurine with Artec Space Spider. Image courtesy of Lacro Tech

3D mastery plus enhanced precision equals highest expectations met

Equipped with the right device, the Lacro Tech team got down to scanning. They decided to split the process into four consequent stages: capturing the top of the statuette, then moving to the bottom, scanning the crown from multiple angles, and, finally, quick processing in Artec Studio. The entire process of obtaining and processing 3D data took only 35 minutes, despite the considerable scanning challenges, such as the very tips of the crown’s teeth that were very tightly spaced. The mastery of the scanning technician, in combination with Artec Space Spider’s enhanced precision, made it possible to perfectly render the crown by making and aligning several scans.

“The scan is what we wanted to achieve: perfect in every detail.”

“Scanning the statuette depicting Madonna of Trapani was fairly demanding,” Andrea Maestri, Lacro Tech’s scanning specialist, explained. “The base and the body did not present particular difficulties, while the crown on the Lady’s head had several difficult areas to scan. With great skill and extreme patience, I was able to accurately reproduce the statuette, also thanks to the exquisite qualities of Artec Space Spider!”

The feedback from the customer couldn’t be more resounding. “The scan is what we wanted to achieve: perfect in every detail. In the reproduction of sacred works, the details are very important; through these, the devoted ‘speak’ to their Sacred Image,” said the marble artist. Sacred art is what has been cherished by generations, and enhancing the knowledge and understanding of this heritage is exceptionally important; it is an opportunity to reach wider audiences, especially those less privileged and unable to travel to places where the original art is kept.

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Many ways of preserving the meaning that matters

A perfectly detailed digitization of the Madonna so faithfully reconstructed in 3D couldn’t help but inspire many possible applications, from preserving cultural and religious heritage to education to funerary art. The latter may not be an obvious use, but it is an essential aspect of a religious tradition in many cultures. Thanks to 3D scanning, it has become possible to use a 3D replica of a sacred art object in creating tombs or chapels. Whether for liturgical purposes, a traditional ritual, or a personalized funerary monument, we can now make accurate 3D models of artwork, depicting a patron saint or a holy person of special significance, which is priceless for spiritual communities.

Madonna di Trapani

All refined and chiseled, the final 3D model can be admired on Sketchfab. Image courtesy of Lacro Tech

Whether found in a church, an ancient town, or a world-renowned art gallery, historically significant religious artwork can be digitized to resist the test of deterioration, catastrophic events, time, and – most importantly in a cultural sense – oblivion. With no damage to the original, 3D scanning is a chance to recreate the artwork in full glory for research, renovation, and safeguarding the meanings behind it. And once this is done, it will be there to inspire and enlighten, just as does Madonna di Trapani in a Sicilian basilica, radiant with her timid smile.

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