From the British Museum

Scanned by Cosmo Wenman. For more photos, descriptions of my reinventions, and info, go to

Hellenistic Greek, 2nd-1st century BC
Said to be from Alexandria, Egypt

Youthful image of the conqueror king

Scanned from the original marble in the British Museum August 2012 by Cosmo Wenman, using AutoDesk 123D Catch.

Edited for printing using Blender and Netfabb Studio Basic.

Printed life size in PLA on a MakerBot Replicator.

Finshed in Lost Bronze, Firenze, and Wrecked Iron with Alternate Reality Patinas.

Model published into the public domain October 2012.

I made these pieces in an attempt to show that, with the right finishes and attention to detail, 3D printers can produce objects of art worthy of public and private display. Not just miniature figurines, or toys, or practical household objects, and not just prototypes. They can do more than evoke the desired object, they can be objects of desire.

But I chose these subjects in particular — elemental, archetypal museum pieces — to try to advance a different but complementary idea; that with 3D scanning and 3D printing, private collectors and museums have an unprecedented opportunity to recast themselves as living engines of cultural creation. They can digitize their three dimensional collections and project them outward into the public realm to be adapted, multiplied, and remixed.

They should do this because the best place to celebrate great art is in a vibrant, lively, and anarchic popular culture. The world's back catalog of art should be set free to run wild in our visual, and now tactile, landscape, and whether it turns up lit in pixels on our screens, rematerialized in our living rooms, or embedded in our architecture or clothing, it's all to the good.

And for forward-thinking, innovative institutions and collectors, and for everyone involved in this young industry, there's prestige, money, value, meaning, and beauty to be made in making it a reality.


From the British Museum:

"Literary sources tell us, though perhaps not reliably, that Alexander (reigned 336-323 BC) chose only a few artists to produce his image, and famous names such as the sculptor Lysippos and the painter Apelles were associated with his portraiture. Though none of the famous images have been recovered, many sculptures in different materials, as well as portraits on gemstones and coins, survive. These were mostly produced long after Alexander's death and while the portraits follow similar general characteristics, they also vary in style.

Alexander was always shown clean-shaven, which was an innovation: all previous portraits of Greek statesmen or rulers had beards. This royal fashion lasted for almost five hundred years and almost all of the Hellenistic kings and Roman emperors until Hadrian were portrayed beardless. Alexander was the first king to wear the all-important royal diadem, a band of cloth tied around the hair that was to become the symbol of Hellenistic kingship.

Earlier portraits of Alexander, in heroic style, look more mature than the portraits made after his death, such as this example. These show a more youthful, though perhaps more god-like character. He has longer hair, a more dynamic tilt of the head and an upward gaze, resembling his description in literary sources.

This head was acquired in Alexandria, the city founded by Alexander in 331 BC, and the location of his tomb. Alexandria was also the capital of the longest surviving Hellenistic dynasty, the Ptolemies. From the time of the reign of Ptolemy I Soter ('Saviour') (305-282 BC), Alexander was worshipped as a god and the forefather of the dynasty."



I printed three life-size copies of this great portrait, changing the original marble carving into a series of metalized PLA reinventions from three eras: "-300, 1440, 1945"

-300; a bronze precursor to the British Museum's marble, finished in "Lost Bronze" - a variegated green patina that might form after 2,312 years of weathering.

1440; finished in "Firenze", a deep, dark bronze, cared for its entire life, with shiny highlights on its brow, nose, lips, hair, and chin, where its admirers have touched it and inadvertently polished it bright over the centuries.

1945; finished in "Wrecked Iron" - the portait of the conqueror king as rusted, abandoned industrial wreckage.

I've uploaded several files:

- My 123D Catch scan file

- An .stl of the complete original bust, including the back of the head, which is weathered and irregular. This file is printable as-is, though there are some sharp planes that could use some texture to make them match the rest of the model. I've only printed it very small, but it turned out well.

- An .stl of the bust converted to a shell, with only the face, as though the original were cast in bronze, and this is the surviving fragment.

- The same shell, with the eyes, lips, and locks of hair sharpened a bit.

- The two face shells, cut into two collections of nine pieces each, sized for printing life size on a Replicator1. Parts L1B and L2C need external supports - the rest don't. I may have made a small defect in the joint between the two top pieces - there's a small gap between the pieces but I haven't had a chance to re-examine the model to see if it is in the design (in the way I cut the pieces), or if the gap was due to warping - they are thin pieces with some weird curves, so it's possible. Either way, it wasn't difficult to fix while gluing the pieces together. I'll upload a correction if it's a defect in the design.

- A detail of the face, cut to size for printing life size on a Replicator1.

If you print the neck piece solid, or with lots of shells and some infill, you can drive mounting screws right into it. Alternatively, both of the multi-part collections have variants of the neck piece with and without an integrated mounting bracket. The mounting bracket I used on my own prints had a few problems, so I didn't share it. I haven't tried the bracketed version that I've uploaded instead, but I designed it to fit over a vertical 16mm rod. An $8 Ikea "Not" floorlamp's base and rods should fit perfectly - a display fit for a king - and you'll be able to set it at any height up to about 6" tall.

Cosmo Wenman


Download Portrait of Alexander the Great 3D Model Files

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