In the Renaissance, when perspective was a newly invented game, one of the greatest challenges you could take on to demonstrate your skill as an artist was to draw or paint a mazzocchio. This is a complex geometric figure with multiple planes that the artist had to work out in perfect perspective. So it seems fitting that in the new “game” of 3D printing, Cristian Marzoli has taken on the challenge of rendering a mazzocchio, and with perfect results.

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What a mazzocchio really is remains a bit of a mystery. General consensus is that it was a wooden support for headgear, which might have been covered with fabric. It may have been worn on the head or around the neck, since paintings illustrate both. But no physical models come down to us from the Renaissance, and I am not familiar with any inventory citations of them within the context of a clothing wardrobe, making me believe there may be more to it. In any case, it’s an object used more for math games than for functional fashion.

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The painter Paolo Uccello (1397-1475) was obsessed with perspective. Vasari says that he preferred this to sex. He would spend hours, late into the night, making perspective drawings, resulting in a few images of the mazzocchio that are now preserved in the drawing departments of some of the world’s most important museums – the Uffizi Gallery’s pen drawing and the Louvre’s pen and ink wash one (both pictured above).

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Detail of Paolo Uccello, deluge, showing figure with mazzocchio around its neck

Detail of Paolo Uccello, deluge, showing figure with mazzocchio around its neck

The object also appears around the neck of a figure in the very strange fresco representing The Deluge in the Choistro Verde at Santa Maria Novella, and on the heads of riders in the Battle of San Romano panel in the Uffizi. Uccello discusses and illustrates the item in his treatise on perspective, De Prospectiva Pingendi.

Later on, Leonardo da Vinci drew variants of mazzocchi in his famed Codice Atlantico (1478) and they appear also in a 16th century manual on perspective, as well as in wooden intarsia designs in which they seem to be demonstrations of the artist’s prowess.

Unquestionably, the Uccello’s Nest bracelet that Cristian Marzoli, aka Fucina Laboratorio di Design, has made is a modern feat of geometric ability. He explains that Uccello’s mazzocchio counts 256 points put into perspective and joined by segments to create planes. He departed from here, but created an even more complex geometric object with 365 points. These are joined by 1005 segments. But rather than creating the regular object favoured by the Renaissance, Marzoli’s version mixes up how the segments join points, generating different three-dimensional models for each bracelet he prints. Should you wish to commemorate a specific date or number, you may order a custom made bracelet with this number of segments.

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We brought two exemplars of the Uccello's Nest to meet the real painting by Paolo Uccello at Santa Maria Novella, but it is currently under restoration! However, we photographed it in the cloister where the artist had once worked.

Like the Renaissance artists, modern Makers enjoy taking on perspectival challenges. Computational rendering makes it certainly easier to generate these objects than it was in the past, allowing us to go beyond historic examples and create new art.

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Two versions of the Nest bracelet are available for sale on MakeTank. The first is a rubber-like version extends the concept of 3D printing with this flexible new material called TPU 92A-1 that we announced on this blog. It starts out as a fine, granular off-white powder, and once sintered with a laser, it becomes strong and durable while also flexible, with a sandy look; it is then dyed black. The only downside to this material is that for now it cannot be produced and distributed in the USA.

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The second version of the bracelet is thus a polyamide one, which has been developed specifically for the USA market because the first material cannot be shipped to the States, and this stiffer bracelet is also available in white.

The bracelet plays on the Renaissance artist’s name, “Uccello,” which means “bird” in Italian – Christian associated this to a particular bird called the Bower bird (Ptilonorhynchidae) who beautifies his nest with colourful objects in order to attract females. Like the bird, you can insert coloured ribbon through the openings of the Nest bracelet, which both highlights its geometric form as well as helps it coordinate well with any outfit.

 

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