• France's news in English
Artists finish life-size replica of Lascaux cave paintings
Photo: AFP

Artists finish life-size replica of Lascaux cave paintings

AFP · 19 Jan 2016, 07:50

Published: 19 Jan 2016 07:50 GMT+01:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

"Absolutely all the work you see on the wall has been engraved, worked and sculpted, chiselled by hand, with little paintbrushes and sometimes even tools used in dentistry," said Francis Ringenbach, the artistic director of the project to replicate the 18,000-year-old Lascaux cave paintings.

The meticulously faithful copy of what has been dubbed the "Sistine Chapel of prehistoric art" is now ready to be transported one segment at a time - 46 all together - and installed just down the road from the original at a site semi-buried in a hillside in Montignac, in the Dordogne region.


The International Centre of Parital (rock wall) Art, 150 metres long (500 feet) and nine metres high, designed by Norwegian architectural firm Snohetta, will open by the end of the year.

The nearly 2,000 Upper Paleolithic wall paintings depicting rhinos, horses, bison, deer and panthers make up Europe's most important collection of prehistoric art and were inscribed on UNESCO's World Heritage list in 1979.

The caves, discovered in 1940 by four teenagers, quickly became a massive tourist draw, with around a million people flocking to see the work of the oldest known modern humans, who came to Europe from Africa via Asia.

Authorities closed them to the public in 1963 out of concern over the danger posed by humans to the delicate micro-climate.

A limited set of reproductions have been on display in Montignac since 1983, while Chicago's Field Museum hosted the first exhibit outside France of copies of the paintings last year titled "Scenes from the Stone Age".

The 57 million-euro ($65 million) project to replicate the entire set has married cutting-edge technology with a desire for the utmost authenticity in the reproduction.

Ringenbach, himself a sculptor, says the need to be as faithful as possible to the original slowed the team down.

"Sometimes one has to spend hours reproducing just 10 square centimetres (1.5 square inches)," he says.

(Metalic structure to host rock paintings are stored at the future international cave arts museum, Lascaux IV, at Montigny-Lascaux. AFP)

A 'magical' feeling

The artists benefitted from 3D digital scans of the original paintings that were projected onto the walls, creating a task akin to using tracing paper as they applied layer upon layer of natural pigments.

Chief painter Gilles Lafleur said of the original works: "We try to understand them really, to understand how and why they were painted this way."

But he admits that "time has taken its toll and these animals don't look the way they would have when they were painted. Time has had a visible impact, so we must also recreate that."

Story continues below…

(Workers look at the international cave arts museum, Lascaux IV, at Montigny-Lascaux.AFP)

Ringenbach says he doffs his cap to the talent of our ancient forebears who only had rudimentary tools to create their masterpieces.

"They were extraordinary technicians, reproducing animal likenesses from memory with their highly vivid movements," he marvels.

Reproducing the originals is, he says, a "magical" feeling.

Whereas the smaller-scale original museum could give only "limited insight" into the site's significance, "here, we reach a whole new level in terms of helping people to understand what Lascaux represents for science, the history of art, prehistory."

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
France to clear 'Jungle' migrant camp Monday
Migrants will be bussed from the camp to some 300 temporary accommodation centres around France. Photo: Denis Charlet/ AFP

The "Jungle" migrant camp on France's northern coast will be cleared of its residents on Monday before being demolished, authorities said Friday.

How life for expats in France has changed over the years
A market in Eymet, southwestern France. Photo: AFP

Foreigners in France explain how life has changed over the years.

London calling for Calais youths, but only a chosen few
Photo: AFP

Dozens of Calais minors are still hanging their hopes on help from the UK, but not all will be so lucky.

17 different ways to talk about sex in French
Photo: Helga Weber/Flickr

Fancy a quick run with the one-legged man?

Yikes! This is what a rat-infested French jail looks like
Photo: YouTube/France Bleu TV.

This video is not for sufferers of ratophobia (or musophobia as the condition is officially called).

France to allow Baby Jesus in Town Halls this Christmas
Photo: AFP

Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus are safe to go on display again this year, it seems.

National Front posts locations of migrants in French town
The National Front courts controversy. Photo: AFP

"Local tax payers have a right to know," says local far-right party chief.

Paris thieves use tear gas to steal €500,000 of watches
Photo: AFP

The thieves pretended to be couriers then threatened staff with tear gas to get the watches.

Bataclan survivor recounts attack in chilling drawings
Photo: BFMTV screengrab

One survivor has recounted the horrific night through illustrations.

Anger among French police grows as Hollande vows talks
French police demonstrate on the Champs Elysées. Photo: AFP

A fourth night of protests shows government efforts to ease anger among French police have been fruitless.

Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Why Toulouse is THE place to be in France right now
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Video: New homage to Paris shows the 'real side' of city
The 'most dangerous' animals you can find in France
Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Swap London fogs for Paris frogs: France woos the Brits
Anger after presenter kisses woman's breasts on live TV
Is France finally set for a cold winter this year?
IN PICS: The story of the 'ghost Metro stations' of Paris
How to make France's 'most-loved' dish: Magret de Canard
Welcome to the flipside: 'I'm not living the dream in France'
Do the French really still eat frogs' legs?
French 'delicacies' foreigners really find hard to stomach
French are the 'world's most pessimistic' about the future
Why the French should not be gloomy about the future
This is the most useful French lesson you will ever have. How to get angry
Why is there a giant clitoris in a field in southern France?
French pastry wars: Pain au chocolat versus chocolatine
Countdown: The ten dishes the French love the most
Expats or immigrants in France: Is there a difference?
How the French reinvented dozens of English words
The ups and downs of being both French and English
How Brexit vote has changed life for expats in France
Twelve French insults we'd love to have in English
What's on in France: Ten of the best events in October
jobs available