The tomb of Raphael in the Pantheon
Made for the exhibition Raffaello
Scuderie del Quirinale, Rome
2 June - 30 August 2020
April 6th 2020 marked the 500-year anniversary of Raphael's death and a number of exhibitions in this centenary year have re-examined the significance of one of the most important artists of the Italian Renaissance.
On March 5th, the Scuderie del Quirinale in Rome opened 'Raffaello', an exhibition beautifully curated by Marzia Faietti and Matteo Lanfranconi, with contributions from Vincenzo Farinella and Francesco Paolo Di Teodoro and the supervision of Sylvia Ferino-Pagden as President of the scientific committee. Raffaello looks in depth at the artist's life, his diverse works of art and his wide-ranging influence: more than 200 artworks, 100 of them by Raphael, were loaned from all over the world.
The COVID-19 emergency urged the shutdown of all museums in Italy for more than 2 months, during which the loans were re-negotiated and confirmed for an additional re-opening on June 2nd, until August 30th.
Factum Arte created the spectacular starting point of the exhibition: a rematerialisation of the painter's tomb from the Pantheon, with its 19th-century additions removed.
During the last days of October 2019, a team from Factum Foundation worked in the Pantheon to digitise the various elements of the tomb. The team worked at night when the space was closed to the public, conducting the recording with permission from the Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage.
A range of non-contact scanning methods were used: LiDAR scanning captured accurate overall measurements and proportions for the larger area around the tomb; close-range photogrammetry captured the surface and relief details of the various decorative elements; and panoramic colour photography obtained accurate colour information.
[R] General plan of the tomb © Factum Arte
[L] Details of the tomb © Factum Arte
The recording phase was fundamental to acquire all the necessary high-resolution data to prepare and organise the next steps. Plans were made that accurately highlighted all the elements making up this complex monument, which according to Giorgio Vasari's Lives was conceived by Raphael himself.
The first and most important detail that had to be taken into account was the size of the rematerialisation: as an exact facsimile wouldn't fit inside the Scuderie del Quirinale's exhibition spaces, the entire tomb was scaled down to 82% of its original size.
At the request of the curators, two variations were then made to the rematerialised design: the two busts to the sides of the Madonna of the Rock were replaced by marble panels and the niche containing the sarcophagus was remodeled in brickwork. The original tomb was opened on 14 September 1833 to ascertain the presence of Raphael's bones within the sepulchre, and small but significant alterations were made to the overall design during the 19th and 20th century. Factum's rematerialisation followed two historic sources: an oil painting made in 1836 by Francesco Diofebi depicting the tomb only three years after its opening (held in the Thordvaldsen Museum in Copenhagen) and a 19th-century lithograph showing Raphael's skeleton laid within a brick archisolium (part of the Royal Collection Trust).
The brickwork was scanned from another tomb within the Pantheon, as were the two marble panels replacing the busts.
Back in Madrid's workshops, separate 3D models were created for the top, middle and lower parts of the tomb. The complete recording of some elements had proved difficult or impossible due to their positioning or the presence of dust over the surface of some of the details, which resulted in missing information and digital noise. The 3D modeling phase therefore also involved the digital reconstruction of the missing parts, such as the back of the Madonna of the Rock (sculpted by Lorenzetto, one of Raphael's pupils) and some sections of the sarcophagus. The surface of the Madonna was also digitally cleaned of the dust which had gathered in the small crevices of the sculpture, creating noise in the digital data
Almost all of Factum's departments were involved in this project, with engineers, architects, sculptors, artists, welders and digital experts working side by side on the various elements making up the tomb. Careful planning and teamwork were the keys that allowed Factum to achieve this ambitious result.
The Madonna of the Rock sculpture and the sarcophagus were CNC-routed from the 3D model in medium density resin using a seven-axis robot, with details retouched by hand. Factum's artists then carefully painted the surfaces to resemble the original white marble, using the colour references acquired through panoramic photography.
A similar process was used to recreate the mouldings decorating the tomb.
[R] The CNC-routed sculptures © Oak Taylor Smith for Factum Arte
[L] The final facsimile of the Madonna of the Rock sculpture © Otto Lowe for Factum Arte
The brickwork niche that originally held Raphael's sarcophagus has been subject to numerous alterations from the 19th century onwards, when it was covered in marble and received two additions in bronze: a flower crown gifted by the Accademia dei Virtuosi and two doves whose attribution is still uncertain, but which were dedicated to the love and harmony that characterised the painter's life. Today, Raphael's sarcophagus is kept behind a glass panel.
The 3D model for the brickwork niche was CNC-routed, coated in resin and hand-painted. The inside of the niche was coated in concrete to imitate the rough surface shown behind the skeleton in the 19th-century lithograph as well as that found in the other niche used as a reference point within the Pantheon.
The two pairs of columns and pilasters decorating the original tomb are made in porphyry and red marble respectively. Factum decided to approach the rematerialisation of these materials in a new way: the CNC-routed bases were coated in resin and the stone incrustations were painted op top. The resulting surface was then polished and retouched by hand in order to restitute the smooth surface of the original.
María Carmen Pascual (left) working on the base of one of the columns, while Laura Revuelta (right) paints the plaster cast of a capital © Oak Taylor Smith for Factum Arte
The elaborate structure of the Corinthian capitels was recorded using photogrammetry. This data provided accurate 3D models which could be 3D printed at a 1:1 scale. These 3D prints were then molded and cast in plaster before being hand-painted to emulate the original marble.
Painted capitals during the final retouching phase © Otto Lowe for Factum Arte
The tomb's marble panels were recorded using panoramic colour photography and then printed onto gesso-coated aluminum sheets using Factum's new flatbed printer, which allows multiple layers of colour to be printed on a surface in perfect registration. Retouching was performed by hand.
The various elements of the tomb were assembled on an aluminum structure that could be easily dismantled and shipped to the exhibition space. A team of four people was sent to assemble the final result in time for the opening on March 5th 2020.