[Image via the Louvre]

Aphrodite of Milos, better known as the Venus de Milo, is one of the most well-known sculptures in the world. Depicting a woman, thought to be the goddess Aphrodite or Venus, the statue was carved in Greece sometime between 130 and 100 B.C. That’s a long time for a work of art to survive, although Aphrodite of Milos didn’t make it to the 21st century all in one piece – somewhere along the way, she lost both of her arms. How and when she lost her arms is a mystery, but the statue’s armlessness has become part of its iconic nature. It’s hard to imagine what it would look like with arms, in fact.

An organization called Handicap International did just that, however, and fitted a replica of the Venus de Milo with a pair of 3D printed prosthetic arms. The goddess now stands with her right arm stretched across her body and resting on her left thigh, while her left arm is extended and holding an apple in its hand. The Venus de Milo wasn’t the only statue to be outfitted with prosthetic limbs; several others across Paris, including in the nearby Tuilieries Garden, also now sport 3D printed limbs. The famous Alexandre Combattant (Alexander Fighting) by Charles Leboeuf was another.

[Image: AFP/Christophe Archambault]

Putting prosthetic limbs on the statues was part of Handicap International’s #BodyCantWait campaign, which aims to raise awareness of how many people are missing limbs and of the effectiveness of 3D printed prosthetics, especially in helping those in need in less developed areas. The organization has already provided 19 people in Togo, Syria and Madagascar with 3D printed limbs, and will soon provide them to more than 100 people in India. According to Handicap International, about 100 million people around the world are in need of prosthetic limbs.

This statue by Laurent-Honore Marqueste also received a prosthetic arm. [Image: AFP/Christophe Archambault]

“We want to take this to the next level, bringing them to more countries and equipping more people,” said Xavier de Crest, head of Handicap International France.

He commented on the benefits of 3D printed prosthetic limbs, particularly how easy they are to produce.

“Before 3D printing, you had to make a plaster cast of the stump, adjust it four or five times, encase it in resin, things that required trained professionals and lots of equipment,” he said. “Now a tiny scanner can analyse the stump and transfer the measurements to modelling software, then to a 3D printer. You save time and it’s more practical, especially when we’re working in a conflict zone like Syria.”

Handicap International hopes that the statue project will bring people’s attention to how many people need prosthetic limbs, as well as how easily those people can be “repaired” with 3D printing, just as the statues were repaired. The organization also hopes to raise funds as well as awareness, so that it can continue to expand its #BodyCantWait campaign to more people and locations. Handicap International encourages people to share photos and videos of the project, more of which can be found on Twitter, with the hashtag #BodyCantWait.

[Image: Thomas Dossus/Handicap International]

If you’re an art purist, not to worry – none of the prosthetics installed on the statues in Paris are permanent fixtures. There is a strange beauty to the incompleteness of the Venus de Milo, and while it’s interesting to see what she looks like with a pair of arms, the statue becomes something completely different than the famous work we’re used to seeing.

So Aphrodite will go back to her original armless state; she’s gotten by for millenia without upper limbs, after all. But people living today shouldn’t have to, and Handicap International’s goal is to see that they don’t.

Discuss this and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com or share your thoughts below. 

[Source: AFP]

 

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