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Computer and conservation sciences work in harmony to rebuild an iconic Renaissance sculpture.
In 2009 a beautiful devotional statue, the Madonna di Pietranico, was severely damaged in an earthquake, which hit Abruzzo in central Italy.

The statue posed a reconstruction challenge to conservators. Some parts were missing altogether, and the many terracotta fragments that remained were fragile. To reconstruct it entirely by hand would have been difficult and risky.

The solution was a close partnership of traditional methods and 3D technology. Conservators matched pairs of fragments by eye, and these were then scanned and modelled. Pair by pair, a virtual reconstruction was pieced together.

By working in 3D, the fit between the fragments could be tested thoroughly before any physical reassembly of the statue began. The finished 3D model also provided a shape for new internal supports, which were essential in returning the Madonna to her attitude of prayer.

The final step was to restore colour to the statue. Since only small traces of the original layers of colour remained, conservators used the 3D model to test ideas. With the colours agreed and applied, La Madonna di Pietranico was complete.