The CT-scans of those 19th-century Burmese ivory stupas reveal their mysterious contents: standing statues of Buddha, finely carved by removing the debris through the openwork screen.
Each Buddha, spreading out his robes with his hands, is surrounded by floral tendrils which form an encasement.
The screen and the Buddha are carved from a single piece of ivory, as is proven by the unbroken root canal which runs vertically through the entire sculpture, quite a tour-de-force of workmanship.
Indeed, the ivory comes from a hypertrophied incisor, necessarily innervated during the elephant’s lifetime.
To produce a 3D reproduction of the entire stupa by rapid prototyping, 900 slices of a 0.5 mm thickness were imported directly into a 3D image processing software.
In order to study the Buddha separately from its surrounding openwork, we isolated the volume of the Buddha from that of the openwork by cutting a two-stage pedestal around the Buddha’s
Next, the stereolithographic digital file was sent to a rapid prototyping bureau in order to obtain a photosensitive polymeric resin model (Materialise NV).
The resulting resin model was displayed in an exhibition on the art of ivory. This gave the general public a better appreciation of this mysterious work of art. Visitors to the exhibit were even able to handle the 3D facsimile of the stupa, without any risk of damage to the fragile original.