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N.C. basketball player lends arm to restore statue

By
Danielle Haynes
North Carolina State University basketball forward Wyatt Walker poses like the Bacchus statue conservationists are seeking to restore. Photo courtesy of the North Carolina Museum of Art
North Carolina State University basketball forward Wyatt Walker poses like the Bacchus statue conservationists are seeking to restore. Photo courtesy of the North Carolina Museum of Art

Jan. 8 (UPI) -- The North Carolina Museum of Art has partnered with perhaps an unusual subject in its quest to restore a partially destroyed ancient Roman statue -- a forward from the North Carolina State University basketball team.

The museum asked for assistance from Wyatt Walker, a graduate student at NCSU who happens to stand about as tall as the statue did in its original form -- 6 feet, 9 inches.

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Experts at Pendragon 3D, a 3D scanning company, scanned Walker's right arm holding a bunch of grapes above his head, mimicking the pose of the Statue of Bacchus. Artist Larry Heyda will then use the scan to recreate the limb and restore the statue to its one-time appearance.

The team chose Walker because they knew they needed a tall subject -- they immediately thought of basketball players who would fit the bill.

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"It was a privilege to be chosen to help with this project," Walker said. "When the artists talked me through the history of the statue and all the work they've done to restore it, I was honored to be able to offer my arm for 3D scanning to help them complete their work."

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The reconstruction is part of the museum's Bacchus Conservation Project, which began when scholars in the 1960s realized the statue was an amalgamation of a 2nd century Roman torso, a head from another sculpture, and limbs, hair and berries that were added at a later date, possibly as late as the 16th or 17th century.

"We have worked and consulted with scholars, scientists, engineers and artists, but we never thought we'd end up working with a basketball player!" said Caroline Rocheleau, curator of ancient art and director of the project.

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The project originally sought to remove the incorrect elements from the torso by researching the various pieces and removing those that were not original. Later, though, the team determined that the assemblage of various sculptural forms created its own "wonderful" statue of Bacchus and displaying the individual pieces alone didn't make "curatorial sense."

"The team did not want to lose this fascinating and important aspect of the sculpture's history," the museum said in a news release issued Monday. "The discoveries have made the composite sculpture more interesting as a whole, even with that rare 2nd-century Roman torso embedded in it."

In addition to constructing an arm for the statue, the museum plans to reattach a head they removed when the aim of the restoration was to remove all non-original sculptural elements. Once completed, the museum will host an exhibition of the restored statue along with digital experiences detailing the steps of the project.

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