Augmenting Scoletta del Carmine

MONADII: Methodologies and Best Practice for Non-Destructive Approaches to Interoperable Design and Management of Cultural Heritage
Rachele Bernardello, Emanuela Faresin, Mirka Dalla Longa, Guilia Piccinin
Spring 2018

This research project, in part developed in the Wired! Lab at Duke University, celebrates the Scoletta del Carmine, a fifteenth-century space that originally functioned as the seat of the Carmelite confraternity in Padua, Italy. The historical research and digital surveys (photogrammetry, laser scans, geo-radar, and thermo-camera imagery) have formed the basis for a digital reconstruction of the Scoletta in relationship to the adjacent church of Santa Maria del Carmine. The interior reconstruction benefits from the scientific analysis of the frescoes, namely the perspectival restitution of the imagery, which has enabled 3D modeling of the painted spaces and fictive architecture. This data is presented in three different Virtual Reality platforms—the Oculus Rift, the Cave (Duke DiVE), and web VR. Beginning in July 2018, these dynamic and multi-sensory experiences can be enjoyed by the broad and varied public who visits the Scoletta in Padua, part of an academic/touristic itinerary developed by the School of Architecture and Engineering at the University of Padua.

Decoding Artifacts

Jessica Pissini
Fall 2015

MA in Digital Art History student Jessica Pissini completed this project as part of her master’s thesis. Below is her explanation of her work:

The Decoding Artifacts project is researching medieval sculpture in new ways by studying stone carving tools and marks, the relationship of sound to the sculptor’s technique, and the importance of drawings and their connections to geometry. In addition, the project’s team is exploring ways to use digital tools and applications for public outreach and education within the Nasher Museum of Art. This website and augmented reality museum app presents 3D models, educational videos, and images as instruments of learning about stone carving and the artifact’s history. It encourages visitors to interact with the museum objects while exploring the virtual information and visualizations.

Access the website.

Find out more about Jessica’s experience in the MA program.

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The Alife Arch

Joseph Williams, Kiki Fox (Trinity ’12)

The Alife Arch project interrogates the provenance and function of several stone fragments in the Brummer Collection of the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University. The project follows the lives of these fragments from their original contexts in antiquity to the Nasher today. Spolia from widespread ancient monuments, the fragments were brought to the southern Italian city of Alife in the Middle Ages, where they were used in the sculptural decoration of the cathedral.

The students involved in this project are researching the ancient marble trade, hoping to establish how these stone blocks may have traveled through the Mediterranean to Alife, and will communicate their research through digital maps.

This project also engages with photogrammetry technology, with which students rendered detailed digital 3D models of the individual fragments of the arch. Following analysis of each fragment, students searched for comparanda in ancient and medieval monuments and hypothetically situated the models of the fragments into architectural and micro-architectural settings such as portals, statue bases, and pulpits. With digital technologies such as this, we can better envision the “potential pasts” of these complex fragments.


Elizabeth Baltes

| Project Website

For nearly four-hundred years, the Hadrianic Baths at Aphrodisias not only answered the social, hygienic, and recreational needs of the population of this Roman administrative center, but also served as a favored setting for the display of heroic, mythological, and portrait statues. The statue landscape here represents more than simple accrual, as statues were added, moved, damaged, and reused in this context over the centuries. Our goal was to recreate and understand the final phase of this long and complex process.

The archaeological site at Aphrodisias is a rich source of well-preserved sculptural and architectural remains, and thus, an ideal place to begin to visualize ancient “statuescapes.”

The collaborators on this Wired! project produced interactive findspot plans, restored and re-colored statues in Photoshop, constructed a 3D model to envision these statues in their architectural context, created a video tour of the baths, and authored a project website.


Elizabeth Baltes

Ancient cities and sanctuaries were once filled with statues. While digital tools have long been used to reconstruct ancient buildings, there has been little attempt to reconstruct the many statues that filled the spaces in between. And, unlike ancient architecture, this statue landscape was forever changing—newer statues were constantly being added. The dense accumulation of statues was an important aspect of the ancient viewing experience of these monuments, which represented visually local social and political history.

While the ancient statue landscape is now difficult to reconstruct and to visualize for a variety of reasons—most bronze statues have long since been destroyed, and many statue bases are not found in situ—the Dromos of the Sanctuary of Apollo on Delos offers a unique opportunity to study the political and spatial dynamics of portrait statue monuments, as the location of the monuments or their foundations were clearly recorded in the state plan published by Rene Vallois in 1923. Many of these bases are still in situ. Because this state plan presents only the final phase of what was in fact a long and complex process that took place over about two centuries, one aim of this project is to unpack the processual dimension of this statuary display and to represent this process visually. By making a model of the Dromos using Google SketchUp, we capture the dynamic and changing nature of this space over time.

Holger Cahill’s Southern Folk Art Expedition

Neatline & The Archives of American Art
Katherine Jentleson
| Project Website

Ph.D. Candidate Katherine Jentleson’s work on a curator’s trip through the American south in 1935 makes use of Neatline digital timeline technology to visualize her research. The project grew out of the Wired! group’s Mapping Time & Space: Configuring Connections, Trade & Travel, Past & Present held in May 2013. Katherine’s essay earned the 2013 Archives of American Art Graduate Research Essay Prize.

On With Their Heads

Creation, Destruction, and Digital Recontextualization
Iara Dundas, Elisabeth Narkin, Tim Prizer

This project follows the complex cultural biographies of two sculptural fragments in the Brummer Collection at Duke University’s Nasher Museum of Art. In analyzing the Head of a Virgin from the choir screen at Chartres’ cathedral and a Virtue from the north transept portal of Notre-Dame of Paris, this project seeks to better understand the objects’ various historical contexts and meanings and hopes to offer innovative solutions as to how best to represent these perspectives in a museum setting. In thinking through the stories of the Virgin and theVirtue, iconoclasm is employed as a unifying interpretive lens through which to examine the evolving significations of the objects. Guided by research questions about what narratives objects contain and how digital representation can tell these stories, “On with their Heads” is envisioned as an intervention in the traditional scholarship on these two well-known edifices as well as a proposal about how research in the humanities research can benefit from a mutually influential relationship with digital technologies.

Sta. Chiara Choir Screen

Andrea Basso, Caroline Bruzelius, Elisa CastagnaLucas Giles, Andrea Giordano, Cosimo Monteleone
Fall 2016

Sta. Chiara is one of the largest churches of Naples, erected between 1310 and c. 1340 by the King and Queen of Naples, Robert the Wise and Sancia of Mallorca.  It was reconstructed after the Allied bombardment of August, 1943, which damaged the walls and destroyed the stucco decoration of the 18th century.

In the Middle Ages the nave of Sta. Chiara, as in other religious buildings, was divided into several sections by a choir screen, or tramezzo.  These were substantial masonry walls that separated the lay public from the clergy; in the case of this church, the choir screen would have included chapels and altars that were important for the devotion of the lay public.

Prof. Caroline Bruzelius (Duke University) has worked with a group of students and colleagues at Duke University and the Universities of Padua, Naples, and Salerno on this project, trying to reconstruct the choir screen and the church with the help of 3D technologies. Creating a 3D model enabled the research team to think through the various options and arrive at a plausible hypothesis of the dimensions of the choir screen at Sta. Chiara, engaging as well with issues of visibility from the nave of the church through to the main altar and the tomb of King Robert the Wise (d. 1343).

The choir screen formed the central subject of study for Lucas GilesMA in Digital Art History Master’s thesis. Its reconstruction and visualization were the main focuses of University of Padua students Andrea Basso and Elisa Castagna’s visit to Duke.

Talking Heads

Jessica Pissini, Chelsea, Victor, and Lauren
Spring 2015 | Project Website

We know that the digital tools we have today allow us to recreate historical data in a way that we have never been able to do before. Because of this, the objective of our final project is a comprehensive historical study of the reconstruction and coloring of two heads from the Nasher’s Brummer collection supported by digital tools. We have chosen the Head of the Virtue, previously worked on by Simon Verity, and the Head of a King, both of which are French in origin. The Head of the Virtue was originally from Notre-Dame Cathedral and is dated to the first half of the 13th century; there is a similar head at the Musée de Cluny in Paris. The Head of the King came from San Germain des Prés.

Our research related to each head will better contribute to producing a more historically accurate reconstruction, from the facial features to the coloring of the surface. Therefore, our main research questions will focus on the provenance of the heads, the value of the material used, and its uses. The value of the material used for the sculptures, as well as its surroundings, will affect how these may have looked and how they were used. Physically, the stone’s value has a direct relationship to the the pigmentation of the surfaces, since the amount invested will affect the colors available for use and will help us specify how we will digitally color our heads. Depending on the costs and location within the building, a sculpture could have been used to simply convey stories of the bible to those who could not read Latin, or for a wealthy patron to purchase heavenly leverage.

View our complete project here. View the models below.


Notre Dame Virtue:


Notre Dame Virtue, Restored Version by Simon Verity:


Head of a King, Restored Version by Jessica Pissini: