CODART, Dutch and Flemish art in museums worldwide

Sgraffito in 3D: laatmiddeleeuws aardewerk gezien door de bril van Joachim Rotteveel

Sgraffito in 3D: late medieval earthenware as viewed by Joachim Rotteveel Exhibition: 25 October 2008 - 4 January 2009

Museum press release

For the first time museum objects have been subjected to 3D industrial reconstruction techniques. Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen presents the wonderful Van Beuningen-De Vriese collection of sgraffito earthenware in a truly novel fashion. The artist Joachim Rotteveel has developed a new manner of scanning, archiving and making 3D reconstructions of the earthenware. The exhibition provides broad access to the archaeological collection in a spectacular way.

Ancient technique

This autumn the museum is exhibiting its collection of sgraffito earthenware, donated by the collector H.J.E. van Beuningen. Sgraffito is an ancient decorative technique in which patterns are scratched through the unfired layer of glaze to reveal the darker clay beneath. Plates, bowls and cooking pots were produced in the Netherlands between 1450 and 1550 with relief drawings with a variety of motifs. At this time, they were used in the kitchen or to decorate the mantelpiece. They have been found during archaeological excavations. For the exhibition the collection has been augmented with special loans that give an insight into the Persian origins of the sgraffito technique.

3D experiment

In collaboration with the visual artist and media technician Joachim Rotteveel, the collection is being made accessible in a spectacular fashion. Innovative visualisation techniques from the worlds of medicine and industry have made it possible to scan the objects, digitalise and archive them and even to create 3D reconstructions. The relief decorations of sgraffito earthenware are ideally suited for experimenting with such virtual visualisations and 3D reconstructions. This exhibition allows the general public an insight into this technological process and its startling results for the first time.

Worldwide access

The exhibition presents almost a hundred original sgraffito objects from the Van Beuningen-De Vriese collection. 22 objects from the collection have been scanned at the Erasmus Medical Centre with a CAT scanner normally used for diagnosis. The scans, which will be exhibited via a video projector, have been used to generate virtual 3D images. Visitors to the exhibition can view the virtual plates, bowls and pots from all angles. The virtual sgraffito collection can be studied online at, thus making it accessible worldwide.

Perfect clones

The final step in this process of recording, archiving and reconstruction is made possible with the technology of Rapid Manufacturing. Seven virtual objects have been copied in nylon resin using the Rapid Manufacturing principle. Visitors will be able to handle the reconstructed sgraffito objects. They are perfect clones of the unique originals and are art works in their own right. The exhibition’s organisers have been inspired by the famous statement of the Japanese ceramicist Rosanjin Kitaoji (1883-1959): ‘All pottery is a copy. The only question is what the copy is aiming for; what element of the original it is seeking to emulate.’


Sgraffito in 3D will be on show in the Serra Hall, which is part of the museum’s recently renewed entrance area. Leading designers have created a transition area where art blends with everyday reality. A place that highlights and interconnects public functions. This entrance area is open to everyone free of charge.


Erasmus Medical Centre (Radiology department)
TNO Science and Industry (Rapid Manufacturing Demo Centre)
Royal Academy of Art in The Hague
The Erasmus Foundation