The Ancient Roman Statue that Underwent an MRI

In the public square that marks the traditional center of Rome, there stood for centuries a magnificent gilded bronze Marcus Aurelius originalequestrian statue of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius, who reigned 161-180 A.D. The statue is believed to date from the later part of the Emperor’s reign, which means it’s over 1800 years old.

Finally, somebody realized that leaving this priceless work of art outdoors in the rain and wind, where birds routinely perched all over it (and left their calling-cards) was not a good idea. In 1981 it was taken indoors, where a team of conservationists spent the next ten years cleaning it up. Their task was tricky: they had to remove centuries of dirt, without inadvertently also removing the tissue-thin remaining layer of gold which covered the bronze. When they finished in 1990, the statue was installed permanently inside a magnificent museum, that just so happens to be located a stone’s throw from the statue’s original outdoor location.

In the meantime, however, the empty space outside in the piazza was simply clamoring to be filled! Conservationists were adamant that the original statue was never going to Marcus Aurelius copystand outdoors again–but they arranged to have an identical copy created and erected out there instead.

And in order to ensure that the copy was really and truly identical, these preservers of antiquity used a very modern technique. They ran the original statue through a 3-D computer program, which mapped its exact dimensions. The process they used was just like an MRI, which does much the same thing for the human body.

Armed with the precise measurements of the statue, they were then able to cast a more or less perfect bronze replica in 1997. Today this copy stands atop the original marble pedestal, which incidentally had been designed by Michelangelo himself. Tourists who visit the area often erroneously believe that they’re looking at the original statue, blissfully unaware that it’s nothing more than a high-tech fake.

Our clients, however, know better–because we make sure that they know the real deal! Think about it: you could tour Rome with a knowledgeable guide and get the true story … or you could stand in front of this 20-year-old imitation and gawk, wrongly convinced that you’re looking at an ancient treasure.

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