As Matt Pharr just let me know: the original Graphics Gems II cover image was in fact a 3D model, and was in fact even ray traced! (that really made my day 🙂 ).
That notwithstanding, the challenge still stands: Anybody out there to create (and donate) a 3D model of that that looks somewhat more “ray trace’y” for us all to play with?
PS: And I promise, we’ll work very hard to ray trace that faster than what was possible back then … I’ll leave it to you to find out how fast that was! (Tip: The book has an “About the Cover” page 🙂 )