Up until now, it could take a sculptor up to a month and a half to make a copy of a corinthian column. Now, thanks to a French-made stone-carving robot, it takes just a week.
It can do pretty much anything you programme it to do.
First, the original is scanned and the data is downloaded into a computer to create a 3D version of it. The sculpture’s 3D image can then be repaired or even altered for reproduction.
Today, this technique is mainly used to obtain digital copies of our precious historical heritage.
At the abbey of Cluny in eastern France, for instance, the robot gives visitors access to works they would probably never see, such as a replica of Saint Peter. The original statue belongs to a museum in the US.
“Here you have a museum quality copy. It’s very interesting for visitors who can’t see the original because it’s in a museum on the other side of the Atlantic,” said Ghislain Moret de Rocheprise, the founder of Lithias, the company behind the robot.
But a machine alone cannot produce such perfection. You always need a sculptor to give the finishing touches or the statue won’t come to life.
“What gives life to a face are the details, the wrinkles, the creases. What I do is add sensuality to a piece of stone, that’s all,” said sculptor Cédric Courtois.
Museums are not alone in using this technology. But it will set you back several thousand euros to get your very own copy of that renaissance statue you’ve been dreaming of.