After more than 500 years, a colossal bronze statue of Constantine the Great in Rome’s Capitoline Museums has been given back its missing finger. Its foot-long index finger was remounted on the stature on Wednesday, per a report in the Italian newspaper Il Messaggero. The director of the Capitoline Museums, Claudio Parisi Presicce, told the publication that the digit was restored “using a non-invasive, reversible and invisible system.”
For years, the ancient finger sat in the collections of the Louvre in Paris, having been mistakenly categorized in 1913. It was recategorized in 2018, following an investigation led by doctoral student Aurélia Azéma, who was researching ancient welding techniques at the time. After realizing that the toe was actually a fractured finger from a statue around 39 feet tall, the Capitoline Museums were contacted.
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A replica of the finger was 3D-printed by the Louvre’s archaeologist, Nicolas Melard, and brought to Rome that same year by museum curators. There, it proved a perfect fit.
The finger had been among a collection of relics acquired by the Louvre from 19th-century Italian banker and art collector Giampietro Campana in 1863. During his lifetime the businessman became famous throughout Europe for his collection of thousands of Greek and Roman sculptures, paintings, and antiquities.
Fragments of the statue on view in the Italian capital include its head, left forearm, and a sphere. It is still missing part of its middle finger and its palm, which once held the orb. The palm and index finger likely broke off when the sphere was separated from the hand in 1584.
On Monday, museums in Rome could reopen after coronavirus restrictions were eased. “It’s a good way to mark the reopening of museums,” said Rome’s mayor, Virginia Raggi.