The Colossal Statue of Constantine, a significant example of late ancient Roman sculpture originating from the 4th century AD, stands as one of antiquity’s most noteworthy works. Standing at an impressive height of approximately 13 meters, it was rediscovered in the 15th century at the Basilica of Maxentius. Today, we can only see a few monumental marble fragments of this statue, which include the head, right arm, wrist, right hand, right knee, right shin, right foot, and left foot. These fragments are housed in the courtyard of Palazzo dei Conservatori at the Capitoline Museums.
Now, an extraordinary 1:1 scale reconstruction of the Colossus can be admired at the garden of Villa Caffarilli. This remarkable project is a result of the collaborative efforts of the Capitoline Superintendency, Fondazione Prada, and Factum Foundation for Digital Technology in Preservation. The scientific supervision was under Claudio Parisi Presicce, Capitoline superintendent of Cultural Heritage. The monument’s replica was publicly presented by several esteemed individuals, including Rome’s Mayor Roberto Gualtieri, Councilor for Culture of Rome Capital Miguel Gotor, Superintendent Claudio Parisi Presicce, and members from Prada Foundation and Factum Foundation. Fondazione Prada had presented the work first in Milan from 17 November 2022 to 27 February 2023, during the Recycling Beauty exhibition.
The reproduction of the Colossus of Constantine was placed in the Garden of Villa Caffarilli, which partially lies on the area where the Temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus once stood. The said temple may have housed the statue of Jupiter, possibly from which the Colossus was made. Today, we can see the temple’s remains inside the Exedra of Marcus Aurelius.
Mayor Roberto Gualtieri expressed gratitude to those who have contributed to the creation and reconstruction of the colossal statue. The project offers a gateway to the treasure trove that is the Capitoline Hill and Capitoline Museums, thereby enhancing the understanding and appreciation of the past.
The reconstruction project started with a detailed analysis of the fragments’ archaeological, historical, and functional aspects. These fragments, preserved in the Capitoline Museums, were found in 1486 inside a building believed to be the Temple of Peace of Vespasian. It was only in the 19th century when these fragments were identified as the colossal portrait of Emperor Constantine. A tenth fragment discovered in 1951 is currently being transferred to the Palazzo dei Conservatori.
Archaeological studies suggest that the Colossus was seated and was made as an acrolith, with the bare parts in white marble and the drapery in metal or golden stucco. Constantine is portrayed as Jupiter, with an uncovered upper body and a cloak draped over his shoulder. He is also seen holding a long-stemmed scepter and a globe.
In March 2022, the Factum Foundation team scanned the fragments using the photogrammetry technique, creating a 3D model of each fragment. The digital body of the statue was then created using other imperial age cult statues as iconographic examples.
The reconstruction conducted by Factum considered various factors such as the marble type of the original parts, the restorations and additions, the missing drapery details, the appearance of the gilded bronze, and the relationship between the reconstruction and the surviving fragments. The material reconstruction of the Colossus used resin and polyurethane, combined with marble dust, gold leaf, and plaster. An easily assembled and removable aluminum support was used for the internal structure.
The final result offers a magnificent illusion of the complete Colossus. The “stitching” between the rematerialized parts and the copies of the original fragments can be visually distinguished.