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The Fortune Playhouse

Started by Stuart, October 25, 2022, 09:01:35 AM

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A number of years ago I was asked if I would be interested in building a scale model of a 17th century English theater called the Fortune Playhouse.  The original structure was built in London, England in 1600 and was a contemporary of William Shakespeare's Globe Playhouse.

Dr. Richard Hosley, from the University of Arizona, is well known for his scholarly work and research on Elizabethan theater and had done extensive study on the Fortune Playhouse, even devising a reconstructed version of how he felt the original structure appeared.  It is interesting to note that of all the English theaters of the time, the Fortune Playhouse was the only one where the original builders contract is still in existence, giving specific measurements and details about its construction.  From this information Dr. Hosley was able to extrapolate enough data to prepare a set of measured drawings and plans of the theater.

That's where I entered the scene.  With plans in hand I began what would become a rather involved effort to fabricate a 1/32nd scale model of this structure.  Today I am actually adding the last finishing detail to the project, a scale human figure to the front of the stage. 

I could not find a commercially available 1/32nd scale figure of the Elizabethan era to work appropriately, so needed to create one of my own.  Although not a sculptor of human anatomy I thought I would give it a try.  After watching online sculpting tutorials, studying books on the human form, researching costuming of the period, and finding a place locally where I could get my finished sculpture 3-D scanned and then printed at a reduced size, this is the end result.

As time goes on I will explain in fuller detail my methods and efforts on this project.  Needless to say, I learned a fair amount as I experimented with modeling techniques new to me during the build process.


This is the original sculpted figure.  He stands not quite 11 inches tall.  I used plasticine modeling clay formed over a wire armature.

Sweeper front.jpg

The reduced scale 3D printed version is just under 2" in height.

Finished figure.jpg

The final painted and ready to install "sweeper" figure to place on the theater stage.  I was disappointed that the reduced 3-D print was not as sharp and detailed as the original.  I wonder if the loss of detail is a combination of the scanning, printing and reduction in size process.

Fortune figures - large and small.jpg

A size comparison between my clay model and the scaled down 3-D version.


Here is a quick preview of my Fortune Theater model.  More photos to follow as I am hoping to have it professionally photographed in the near future.

Fortune aerial 1.jpg

A top view of the overall model.

Fortune aerial 2.jpg

The model splits into several sections so that the interior areas can be viewed.  In this case the front section has been removed.

Stage facade.jpg

The stage facade with hand sculpted figures and satyr busts.

Gallery section.jpg

The interior of the front gallery section.


Boah, that's a strong statement :o  ! Absolute fantastic! I would call it archaeology by modelling. The subject itself is also interesting and very enriching!!!
"Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication" -Leonardo Da Vinci-



Stuart, that is an amazing model, and your first figure sculpt is professional quality.

I think when you reduce any scan for 3D printing, you lose detail in proportion to the shrinkage. My son just "scanned" me with his iPhone, and the 1/12 3D print has lost some of the finer details, and has become somewhat "faceted". The better (more expensive) the scanner, the more detailed the scan, and any reduced print. I'll share a picture of the print soon.

At any rate, congratulation on a fine job!


Very nice!

On the figure resolution:

I'd say there are 4 approaches.
1. Scan from life.  This is what Modelu in the UK do and the results are good, if possibly a little soft.  You get perfect poses and extremely realistic results. And you get to play dress up :-).
2. Digital sculpting from scratch.  Very sharp, but results depend on skill.
3. Digital sculpting from commercial assets (ie pre-rigged figures and clothing. see daz3D for example).  Very sharp, relies far less on artistic skill, but requires software skill.  This is the approach that I use. Attached work in progress is printable. Ear detail, nostrils and forehead wrinkles resolve in 1:34. Figure to get to this point was 5-10 minutes work. Figures are no problem and almost infinitely variable. Printable hair is more tricky.  Clothes are relatively easy if you can find something off the shelf, somewhat harder if you need to do them yourself.
4. Your approach.  For me this would be the hardest, but I don't have and artistic bone in my body. You've mastered the skill admirably, but I suspect the scan step was a bit low resolution.  It should be possible to do better with an 11" figure to work from.

Lawrence in NZ


I'm really impressed with the quality of the figure! The facial expression looks very lifelike. Even if the reduction has lost, it is still better than what you can buy many times.


Chuck Doan

Very impressive work all around, Stuart! Wow!
"They're most important to me. Most important. All the little details." -Joseph Cotten, Shadow of a Doubt


Bill Gill

Stuart, That's impressive work all around. Your first sculpted figure turned out really well!! As did all the smaller decorative figures, busts and medallions. And the theater (Theatre?) itself is no slouch either.

Must've been a neat project to work with all the historical records for overall size plus informed interpretations/speculations for the details.

I agree with Carlo that the resolution of the scan makes a big difference. A few years ago I read an article about Rapido Trains scanning a diesel loco as the first step for modeling it in HO scale. That's a much larger shrinkage than your sculpted figure to printed figure. What amazed me was the original scan captured the thickness of the layer of paint where the cab number and railroad name were painted on the sides! I don't know what scanner they used, but it was very high end (They rented it).


Thank you to all of you for your encouraging words.

Peter -
Your Schaffhausen wire rope transmission model is outstanding.  Beautiful work.  And the figures you were able to find look very appropriate and well detailed.

Lawrence -
Early on, when I was contemplating the need for a figure to finish off my project, I had actually thought to scan an actual person dressed in the garb of the time.  Then I discovered the cost involved in such a process and changed my mind. I also looked on line at various ready made digital models but was unable to find exactly what I was looking for.  And then I inquired about having someone create a digital model for me, but that too was cost prohibitive.  Alas, the only option left open to me, that was at least somewhat affordable, was to sculpt something of my own and have it scanned. It was definitely a challenge and not one I think I will repeat anytime in the future.

Had I been better informed with regard to needing high resolution in the scanning process I would have sought something better than what I received.  Anyway, perhaps my experience will prove a valuable resource for others who are faced with similar issues.


That figure is a superb effort in sculpting and nicely painted too.  The only downside is the soft resolution outside your control. It's a bit of a bugger that we only seem to get helpful suggestions once we have shown our finished models off.

I know that Modelu in the UK do shows where they scan you and produce prints.  It's popular, so I assume not prohibitive, but finding someone local might be difficult.  I'm certainly not aware of a supplier local to me.  Digital sculpting takes time, so expensive if you are paying someone or charging your time out.  Mind you it must have taken some time to sculpt your clay figure too.

It would be possible to graft a hi resolution head/face on to your existing scanned model, but I think you might gain sharpness at the cost of charm.  In any case the figure is a small element of the overall theatre model so it's probably not that big an issue in this context.

Lawrence in NZ


This is a great project. I am very impressed by the theatre. It's interesting that you chose purple for the trousers on one figure. At that time, the only real purple dye came from murex mollusks and was incredibly resource intensive, requiring something like 10,000 mollusks for a gram of dye. Another way to look at it is that Cleopatra dyed her barge sail purple. Your bloke is a stage sweeper with imperial pants!
You may ask yourself: "Well, how did I get here?"



Here's the figure now in place on the stage, purple pants and all.   Originally I was going for an olive color for the trousers but then my wife suggested something a little more "exciting, maybe burgundy".  Next time I'll listen to my instincts.

 Sweeper on stage.jpg


He could simply be a very good stage manager with bad taste in clothes. -- Russ

Ray Dunakin

Wow! The model of the theater is pure perfection, and your sculpted figure is really quite impressive!
Visit my website to see pics of the rugged and rocky In-ko-pah Railroad!

Ray Dunakin's World


A great overall work of art. But one question still remains open to me, what kind of lighting did they have at that time or was the theater only used in daylight?
Regards Helmut
the journey is the goal