Artist Jonathan Monaghan is known for his surrealist virtual-reality piece Escape Pod. Now he is back with a new venture, titled Agnus Dei (After Zurbarán), based on a 1635 piece by Francisco de Zurbarán and sculpted by a robotic arm.

Transforming a 17th-century painting into a digitally milled sculpture. Image 1.

The artist drew inspiration from the painting of a bound lamb, titled The Lamb of God, from which he abstracted the lamb's shape using 3D modelling software.

Transforming a 17th-century painting into a digitally milled sculpture. Image 2.

Monaghan then used a robotic diamond-tipped arm to carve the intricacies into marble, using he facilities at the Digital Stone Project Workshop. Afterwards, the design was transferred to Tuscan marble carving factory Farfargnna Innovazione, where a 7-axis milling machine carved the design into Carrara marble, which was used for Renaissance sculptures.

The process required a large attention to detail and an extended period for sanding and finishing. He finished the piece with 3D printed ornaments.

Transforming a 17th-century painting into a digitally milled sculpture. Image 3.

Monaghan says of his practice, "In my work, there is always a blurring of meanings and realities, such as creating photo-realistic videos which are completely computer-generated. So it’s important in my work to use the virtual world in some way. The CNC milling process keeps the work in the digital realm, and it also offers access to a medium that would otherwise be difficult for me.”

Transforming a 17th-century painting into a digitally milled sculpture. Image 4.

   

FACTS ABOUT MARBLE SCULPTURE:

 Carrara marble has been one of the Italian region's biggest exports since before the Roman Empire. In 2013, 700,000 tons of marble were exported in just six months.

 Renaissance sculptural techniques include using a mason axe to chop marble, and a variety of different chisels to create grooves. Pumice was used to polish the marble.

All images: Jonathan Monaghan