Factum Arte

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Adam Lowe, founder of Factum Arte, with Manuela Carmena, mayor of Madrid, in the Factum Arte premises in Madrid.

Factum Arte is a company based in Madrid, Milan, and London that seeks to construct a bridge between new technologies and craft skills in the conservation of cultural heritage and in contemporary art.[1] By using various forms of high-definition 3D scanners, Factum Arte has been able to record, in digital form using non-contact equipment, a number of endangered sites/objects of cultural importance.[2] This is done in conjunction with the Factum Foundation for Digital Technology in Conservation, which seeks to promote the use of non-contact 3D scanners to record museum collections and historic monuments, especially in areas where they are at risk.[3]

In addition to recording objects, Factum Arte is able to use the digital data to create an exact facsimile of the object on a scale of 1:1.[4] In 2014, Factum Arte completed the installation of an exact facsimile of the tomb of Tutankhamun in the Valley of the Kings in Luxor, near Howard Carter’s house. The facsimile, and its proximity to the original tomb, is intended to provoke a debate about preservation;[5][6] as Factum Arte's Director, Adam Lowe, was said: "The tomb of Tutankhamun was built to last for eternity, but it wasn't built to be visited".[7]

Over the years, Factum Arte has worked with institutions such as the British Museum in London, the Musée du Louvre in Paris, the Pergamon Museum in Berlin, the Museo del Prado in Madrid, and the Supreme Council of Antiquities in Egypt. In addition to its work in the field of cultural heritage, Factum Arte also assists a wide range of contemporary artist in creating technically difficult and innovative works of art.[8]


Factum Arte was founded in 2001 by the artists Adam Lowe, Manuel Franquelo, with Fernando Garcia-Guereta to facilitate the recording of the Tomb of Seti I and works with a number of artists including Marc Quinn and Anish Kapoor.[9] The Seti project involved the design and construction of 3D laser scanners, software, and photographic equipment to record the walls of the tomb at high-resolution.[10]

Notable Historical Projects[edit]

Tomb of Seti I[edit]

Factum Arte was founded in 2001 in order to facilitate the development of technology needed specifically for the recording of the Tomb of Seti I.

Seti's tomb is regarded by many as the most visually impressive, and historically important tomb in the Valley of the Kings.[11] Discovered by Giovanni Battista Belzoni in October 1817, the tomb of Pharaoh Seti I is the longest and one of the most decorated tombs in the Valley of the Kings. Despite being in excellent condition on its discovery, the tomb is currently closed to visitors to the Valley due to its deteriorating condition over the years. In addition to the removal of wall panels, and the loss of paint due to 19th century plaster casts, the tomb has suffered from collapses and cracks due to expeditions searching for hidden chambers in the 1950s and 60s that caused changes in the moisture levels of the surrounding rock.[12]

Tomb of Thutmose III[edit]

Factum Arte was commissioned by United Exhibits Group to make a 1:1 facsimile of the Tomb of Thutmose III in 2002. The facsimile was toured at exhibitions in various museums in the United States between November 2002 and December 2007.[13] In 2005 a second facsimile of the tomb was exhibited in Madrid, Edinburgh, and Basel titled Immortal Pharaoh: The Tomb of Thutmose III (Edinburgh) and The Tomb of Thutmose III: The Dark Hours of the Sun (Madrid and Basel).[14]

The Tomb of Thutmose III is the oldest complete version of the narrative of the Egyptian Amduat, the journey the Sun God takes through the hours of the night.

Tomb of Tutankhamun[edit]

The facsimile of the tomb was installed briefly outside the Conrad Hotel in Cairo for the EU-Egypt Business and Tourism Summit and was unveiled by Catherine Ashton the European High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs in November 2012 as a gift to the people of Egypt, coinciding with the 90th anniversary of the tomb's discovery.[15][16][17]

In 2014 Factum Arte installed the facsimile in the Valley of the Kings, beside Howard Carter's house, the consultant of the construction site where the facsimile was installed was "Tarek Waly center architecture and heritage".[18][19] It was unveiled by the Minister of Antiquities Mohamed Ibrahim, the Minister for Tourism Hisham Zazou, the Governor of Luxor Tarek Saad el Din and EU Ambassador James Moran. The aim of the facsimile is to inform visitors to the valley about the importance of preservation and to promote awareness about the degrading state of the tombs since their opening to tourists.[20][21]

In August 2015, Egyptologist Nicholas Reeves published a paper in which he hypothesised the presence of the tomb of Nefertiti as being behind one of the walls of Tutankhamun's tomb. Reeves' based his theory on markings he observed on the wall in the data recorded by Factum Arte.[22] In September 2015, Egyptian newspaper Ahram reported that initial examinations had confirmed the existence of the wall markings observed by Reeves in Factum Arte's data.[23] The same article reported that the results of further examinations would be published on 4 November 2015; the same day that the tomb was discovered in 1922.[23]

Throne Room of Ashurnasirpal II[edit]

In 2004, during the Second Gulf War, Factum Arte and Danish company United Exhibits Group (UEG) embarked on a project to record, and create a facsimile of the throne room of Ashurnasirpal II in the ancient city of Nimrud. Fragments of the throne room exist in the collections of various museums in Europe and the United States. Factum Arte was given permission to record these fragments in the British Museum, the Pergamon in Berlin, Dresden, Harvard, and Princeton.[24]

Unfortunately, at the time, Iraq was considered too dangerous to send a team out to record the remaining fragments in Nimrud. In 2015 the Islamic State militants in Northern Iraq destroyed much of the remaining artwork in the ruins of the palace of Nimrud. While recording these fragments in 2005 would not have prevented their destruction by ISIS, it would have kept avenues open to further in-depth study through the high-resolution 3D data, and presented the possibility of reuniting the fragments in the form of facsimile.

The Wedding Feast at Cana[edit]

In November 2007, Factum Arte's facsimile of The Wedding Feast at Cana (1563), by Paolo Veronese, was presented by the Cini Foundation in the original location of the painting, the Andrea Palladio's refectory for the Monastery of San Giorgio Maggiore, Venice.[25] The original painting, commissioned in 1562, was plundered by the French Revolutionary Army of Napoleon in 1797 and sent to the Louvre Museum, where it hangs opposite the Mona Lisa.[26] The facsimile was commissioned in 2006 by the Fondazione Giorgio Cini and, following an agreement with the Louvre, Factum Arte's technicians were allowed to scan the painting at night. Corriere della Sera called the facsimile a "turning point in art".[25]


In 2010 the Cini Foundation commissioned the visualisation and manufacture of objects designed by the 18th century artist and antiquarian Giambattista Piranesi. The project was conceived by Adam Lowe, Michele de Lucchi, and John Wilton-Ely and was exhibited in the Cini Foundation on the island of San Giorgio Maggiore for the Venice Biannale. The objects were later toured for exhibitions in Madrid, Barcelona, and San Diego[27][28]

In March–May 2014, Factum Arte exhibited the series at the Sir John Soane Museum in London. Diverse Manieri: Piranesi, Fantasy and Excess aimed to explore the relationship between Sir John Soane and Piranesi. The objects were shown in the context of prints, drawings and books in Soane's library.[29][30]

The objects were visualised in digital form from Piranesi's designs and then rematerialized in three dimensions in the materials specified in the design. The manufacture of the objects involved a variety of methods including stereo-lithography, milling, fused deposition modelling, electro forming and electro plating, in addition to a host of moulding and casting technologies[31][32][33]

Polittico Griffoni[edit]

The 16 panels of the Polittico Griffoni once formed the altarpiece of the Basilica of San Petronio in Bologna. It was considered one of the greatest altarpieces of the 15th Century Bolognese School. The panels were originally painted by Francesco del Cossa and Ercole De Roberti. The panels, removed in 1725, are now scattered in various museums in Italy, the United Kingdom, the United States, France, the Netherlands, and the Vatican City.[34]

Using the Lucida 3D scanner, designed by Manuel Franquelo, Factum Arte and the Factum Foundation for Digital Technology in Conservation collaborated with San Petronio Basilica to record, reproduce and reunite the panels as a facsimile in their original location.[34][35]


Other projects in the realm of cultural conservation include:


Factum Arte has developed a number technologies in order to better facilitate the recording and production of objects.


  • Lucida 3D Laser Scanner – Built and tested by Factum Arte's cofounder and artist Manuel Franquelo, the Lucida system is capable of scanning surface relief, without contact, and with a depth of field of 2.5 cm at resolution of 100 microns.[36] The scanner is designed to be portable, and easy to set up and operate; with the aim to make the recording of objects and sites more feasible and accessible for both individuals and institutions.
  • Cement Printer – the cement printer, designed by engineer Dwight Perry, aims to print a 3 dimensional concrete structure directly from CAD files. A prototype was displayed at the GENESIS exhibition, about genetics, at the Centraal Museum in Utrecht in 2007. In 2009 the artist Anish Kapoor utilized a second prototype of the printer as an investigation into new ways of developing form. Kapoor used the results of his experimentation as a piece, entitled "Greyman Cries, Shaman Dies, Billowing Smoke, Beauty Evoked", in his solo exhibition at the Royal Academy in London. Kapoor's vision and process was detailed in a book Unconformity and Entropy, published by Turner Books in 2010 - ISBN 978-8475068916.[37] The cement printer is currently undergoing development at Factum Arte's workshop in Madrid.


Factum Arte collaborates with a large number of companies and individuals from the tech industry and the art world.


Factum Arte has undertaken projects with, among others, the following artists:

List of Exhibitions[edit]

  • Las Horas Oscuras del Sol – Madrid, Museo Arqueologico de Madrid, 2004, in collaboration with the Fundación Santander Central Hispano
  • Immortal Pharaoh – Edinburgh, City Art Centre, 2005, in collaboration with United Exhibits Group
  • In Pharaos Grab: Die Verborgenen Stunden der Sonne – Basel, Antiken Museum, 2006
  • Editing Originality – Madrid, Betty Guereta Gallery, 2008
  • The Art of Piranesi: Architect, Engraver, Antiquarian, Vedutista, Designer – Venice, at the Venice Biennale of Architecture, 2010, in collaboration with the Cini Foundation
  • Penelope's Labour: Weaving Words and Images – Venice, Island of San Giorgio, 2011, in collaboration with the Cini Foundation
  • Las Artes de Piranesi – Madrid, Caixa Forum, 2012, in collaboration with the Cini Foundation, organised by the La Caixa Welfare Projects


In 2013, when referring to the facsimile of the Tomb of Tutankhamun and the facsimile of the caves at Lascaux, historian Tom Holland voiced criticism of the idea of creating "fakes" as a means to protect the originals:

In our society, there is a huge premium set on authenticity. Clearly, were there not a difference between the copy and the original, it wouldn't matter – you could make a replica and trash the original. Tutankhamun and Lascaux were created by people who believed in the world of the spirits, the dead, and the supernatural. You don't have to believe in a god or gods to feel a place is consecrated and has a particular quality that cannot be reproduced.[39]


  1. ^ Simon Schaffer, "What does Digitality do to the Arts?", in "the Miracle of Cana: The Originality of the Reproduction", Cini Foundation and Cierre Edizioni, 2011
  2. ^ a b "Conservation". Factum Arte. Retrieved 29 January 2016.
  3. ^ Factum Foundation for Digital Technology in Conservation, http://www.factumfoundation.org/pag/198/The-Foundation
  4. ^ Factum Arte, [1], ‘factum-arte.com’
  5. ^ Aspden, Peter (17 April 2014). "Fit for a king: Tutankhamun's replica burial chamber". The Financial Times. Retrieved 19 July 2016.
  6. ^ "Egypt: Preserving King Tut's Tomb Campbell datalogger controls monitoring of conditions at Tutankhamen site". Campbell Scientific United Kingdom. Retrieved 19 July 2016.
  7. ^ Daveys, Janey (19 October 2014). "Creating an exact replica of Pharaoh Tutankhamun's Tomb with 3D printing". Inside3DP.com. Retrieved 19 July 2016.
  8. ^ "What is Factum Arte?". Factum Arte. Retrieved 19 July 2016.
  9. ^ Factum-arte.com/art
  10. ^ Hallet, Florence (19 December 2014). "We Made It: Factum Arte Recreating a facsimile of Tutankhamun's tomb and a painting by Veronese is all part of revolutionising our experience of art". The Arts Desk. Retrieved 19 July 2016.
  11. ^ "Tomb of the Mighty Pharaoh Seti I". Nubian Nile Cruises, Inc. Archived from the original on 30 July 2016. Retrieved 19 July 2016.
  12. ^ Romer, John; Romer, Elizabeth, 1993, "The Rape of Tutankhamun", Michael Mara Books Limited
  13. ^ "Facsimile of the Tomb of Thutmose III". Factum Arte. Retrieved 19 July 2016.
  14. ^ Barbara Leicht, "Reise Durch den Verborgenen Raum", https://www.bibelwerk.de/sixcms/media.php/169/WUB_406_Auf%20den%20Spuren%20Jesu%201_Rep.pdf, bibelwerk.de, April 2006
  15. ^ EU-Egypt Taskforce – Co-chairs Conclusions, http://www.consilium.europa.eu/uedocs/cms_data/docs/pressdata/EN/foraff/133511.pdf, 2012
  16. ^ "Catherine Ashton Unveils Replica Tomb of Tutankhamun at Start of EU-Egypt Taskforce", http://www.consilium.europa.eu/uedocs/cms_data/docs/pressdata/EN/foraff/133448.pdf, European Union, 13 November 2012
  17. ^ "Toot toot, King Tut Technology in the service of history". The Economist Newspaper Limited. Retrieved 19 July 2016.
  18. ^ S.L., Factum Arte,. "Factum Arte :: The Theban Necropolis Preservation Initiative". www.factum-arte.com. Retrieved 19 March 2017.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)
  19. ^ Administrator. "Facsimile of Tutankhamun's Tomb | Tarek Waly Center". www.walycenter.org. Retrieved 19 March 2017.
  20. ^ "Official Opening of the Facsimile of King Tutankhamun's Tomb". Past Preservers/Aegaeus. Retrieved 19 July 2016.
  21. ^ Burrell, Ian (30 April 2014). "Egypt Unveils Exact Replica of Tutankhamun's Tomb Made with a 3D Printer". Independent. Retrieved 19 July 2016.
  22. ^ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_y2CFJ1DAQg, 3 October 2015
  23. ^ a b El-Aref, Nevine. "Anticipation Grows at Possibility of Tutankhamun Tomb's Hidden Chambers". Ahram Online. Retrieved 19 July 2016.
  24. ^ Factum-Arte.com
  25. ^ a b Jobey, Liz (26 July 2013). "Conservation: Factum Arte Remaking History". The Financial Times. Retrieved 19 July 2016.
  26. ^ "The Wedding Feast at Cana". The Louvre. Retrieved 19 July 2016.
  27. ^ Mariano Navarro, "Piranesi Contemporáneo", www.elcultural.es, 4 May 2012
  28. ^ James Chute, "Seeing History Through Piranesi's Eyes", San Diego Union-Tribune, 26 April 2013
  29. ^ Jones, Jonathan (6 March 2014). "Piranesi, Fantasy and Excess Review: Where Imagination and Reality Collide". Guardian News and Media Limited. Retrieved 19 July 2016.
  30. ^ Sir John Soane Museum, "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 15 September 2015. Retrieved 2015-05-26.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) "Diverse Manieri Press Release", December 2013
  31. ^ "Diverse Maniere: Piranesi, Fantasy and Excess". Gobierno de España Factum Arte. Retrieved 19 July 2016.
  32. ^ Ings, Simon (17 March 2014). "How 3D Printers Forge New Art From Old Etchings". Reed Business Information. Retrieved 19 July 2016.
  33. ^ Adam Lowe, "Messing About with Masterpieces: New Work by Giambattista Piranesi (1720-1778)", http://www.factum-arte.com/lib/kcfinder/upload/files/articles/30.pdf, original article in Art in Print, May 2010
  34. ^ a b Fabio Isman, "Il Polittico Griffoni da Bologna al Mundo", http://www.factum-arte.com/lib/kcfinder/upload/files/articles/BellItalia_marzo_2014.pdf, original article in Bell’ Italia, March 2014
  35. ^ "Polittico Griffoni Digital Technology Applied to the Re-unification of a Scattered Altarpiece". Factum Arte. Retrieved 19 July 2016.
  36. ^ Josephine Livingstone, "Mapping the Newest Old Map of the World", theawl.com, The AWL, 17 June 2013
  37. ^ Kapoor, Anish (31 March 2010). "Unconformity and Entropy". Turner Books. Retrieved 18 July 2016.
  38. ^ Artists, http://www.factum-arte.com/ind/4/Art, Factum Arte
  39. ^ Alison Gee, "Which would you rather visit – a fake tomb or a real one?", https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-24478909, BBC World Service

External links[edit]