Dutch artist 3D prints CT scan of his own skeleton


November 15, 2012

A close-up of Caspar Berger's humerus, cast in gold

A close-up of Caspar Berger's humerus, cast in gold

Image Gallery (8 images)

In what could be described as the ultimate memento mori – a genre of art that reminds us of our own mortality – Dutch sculpture Caspar Berger has reproduced an exact copy of his own skeleton. He underwent a CT scan, which provided detailed anatomical data, which was then output on a 3D printer.

Using the latest CT scanner at Toshiba Medical Systems Europe, which can produce cross-sections of the body just half a millimeter thick, he was able to digitally separate his bones from the rest of his body. Armed with the resulting images, he then used a 3D printer to create life-sized copies of his bones, made from a translucent resin. Those 3D-printed bones were subsequently used as the basis for bronze, silver, gold, and plaster castings.

Caspar Berger's skull printed in three dimensions, in translucent resin

"The last self-portrait I made centered on skin, the essential boundary between the external (appearance) and internal (inner self) as a personal or cultural membrane," Berger writes on his website. "I have now turned to what supports the body: the skeleton. I see the skeleton as the basis of the physical body, but also as the carrier of our ‘eternal identity’, which long after we are gone continues to reveal who we were."

In an impressive demonstration of just how well the naked skeleton preserves our outward appearance, he sent his skull to a forensic anthropologist. Using expert knowledge of human anatomy, the anthropologist layered clay muscle, tissue, and skin in a process called facial reconstruction. The only information provided in advance was that the skull belonged to a man born in Western Europe who was in his mid-40s. The finished sculpture, titled Self-portrait 21, is described as a self-portrait not made by the artist himself.

The facial reconstruction process layers clay muscle, tissue, and skin over the skull using expert knowledge of anatomy

Reproducing body parts via 3D printing is not new, given that medical applications of the technology preceded artistic endeavors like this one by many years. However, it was ripe for adaptation by Berger, who is known for his unique self-portraits. You can view photographs of his other works at the virtual gallery on his website, and see the skeleton-building process in action in the video below.

Source: Caspar Berger via 3ders

About the Author
Jason Falconer Jason is a freelance writer based in central Canada with a background in computer graphics. He has written about hundreds of humanoid robots on his website Plastic Pals and is an avid gamer with an unsightly collection of retro consoles, cartridges, and controllers. All articles by Jason Falconer

Pity about the incidental radiation involved in a gratuitous CT. He should have spent the $ and opted for an MRI - better resolution, no radiation

Guess the concept of "suffering artist" in the 21st century means subjecting yourself to iatrogenic cancer ?


True first comment Ash....

Generally CT (state of the art with both)resolution is better than MRI for whole body scans (due to the effect of having a fixed gradient field, smaller FOV will give higher detail in 3D), especially of bones.... MRI excels in non-contrast soft tissue detail not bony detail... Iatrogenic is a good term, Doctor inflicted, however as this was a CT in pursuit of art, it may be autogenic (sic)

Also, when does this become art, scanning and 3d printing an object is more an act of counterfeiting or reverse engineering rather than art.


is it just me, or does the clay head kinda look like hellraiser?


I foresee the future here a cycle from medical to artist and then back to medical. Imagine if your doctor could replace damaged bones printed from your own.

Ron Spicer

Ron the current problem with fixing bones is more the damage to surronding tissue and nerves. Bones remodel themselves after a break and there exact shape is not the most important aspect to repairing a broken bone.

I do see the future as being very interested in the technology though as I am sure there are many interesting places this could be used such as in custom, perfect fitting, repair plates that could be used to put someones tibia or hip back together.


Dave Maguire
Post a Comment

Login with your Gizmag account:

Related Articles
Looking for something? Search our articles