3D-generated replica of missing Masaryk statue to debut at Brno’s International Engineering Fair

Ladislav Jezbera, photo: ČTK/David Taneček

Countless statues of Tomáš Garrique Masaryk, the founding father of Czechoslovakia and the country’s first president, were erected in town squares in the first two decades of the new democracy. Scores were torn down under the German occupation, melted down in Third Reich forges to make bullets and artillery shells. But the fate of a handful of others remains a mystery.

Ladislav Jezbera,  photo: ČTK/David Taneček
In the heart of the Moravian capital of Brno once stood a proud statue of “papa Masaryk”, the statesman and philosopher who in 1918 laid the founding stone of the new state. Unveiled in 1928, a year after Masaryk’s re-election as head of state, the three-metre-tall statue vanished, falling victim, most likely, to common thieves.

That same year, on the 10th anniversary of Czechoslovakia’s founding, the Brno exhibition grounds were established, with Masaryk’s statue and legacy enjoying pride of place at the inaugural event. Now, the current Trade Fair management have set a goal of reinstalling a faithful replica of the bronze statute, to be unveiled in time for October 28th – Czechoslovak Independence Day.

Miroslav Drápela is director of MCAE Systems, the 3D printing company recruited to scan a surviving model of the statue, which survived in the depository of the National Museum.

“The process captures the shape in minute detail – but without making physical contact, so it cannot damage the model. Based on these data, we can create a full-size model using robotics. Then the modelling clay is applied to it. That was followed by another stage, which took place at an earlier Trade Fair in Brno, when we machine buffed the model.”

The faithful replica is due to be unveiled on October 7th at the International Engineering Fair, the leading such event in Central Europe, with more than 1,600 exhibitors and 80,000 visitors taking part each year.

The fair’s main theme is Industry 4.0 and the Digital Factory, in other words, the digitalization of production, which is one of the main directions of the innovation process.

Ladislav Jezbera,  photo: ČTK/David Taneček
The Masaryk statue will thus serve as an example of high-tech craft combined with traditional artistry – with the foundry piece delivered into the capable hands of sculptor Ladislav Jezbera.

“The machine measures everything quite precisely. So that makes things a lot easier. My contribution is in the fine sculpting or finishing, aimed at getting even closer to the original statue.”

After World War I, statues from the vanished Hapsburg Empire also were melted down to be replaced by Czechoslovakia’s new, democratic heroes, Masaryk chief among them. These in turn were often melted down by the Nazis or later by the Communists.

Rather than reinstall replicas, some Czech towns and groups have commissioned new ones, often raising the ire of traditionalists, for example, for depicting Masaryk in more modest lights – more as an educator than a statesman.

The town of Litomyšl, for example, rather than continuing the cycle, elected to leave in place a statue of a Communist minister of culture who had supplanted Masaryk’s likeness – but placed a plaque at the statue’s base, explaining the history behind it.