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:

Troyes Cathedral: Stained Glass

Brad Lenz, Henrietta Miers, Crystal Terry, and Hanna Wiegers

Spring 2015

Project Website

This project concerns a piece of 13th Century stained glass from the Brummer Collection in the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University. The scene, of which only half remains in the hands of the Nasher, depicts God instructing Adam and Eve at the tree of knowledge. This fragment is in poor condition; its structure is damaged, and its color is dimmed. Our handling of the object was limited, which limited our ability to directly infer the original colors from the piece itself. In order to better understand what the piece may have looked like in its original location within the Saint Pierre-Saint Paul Cathedral at Troyes, we created a digitally recolored version of the window and positioned it in a 3D model of the cathedral.

Water and Food in Venice. Stories of the Lagoon and the City

Kristin Lanzoni

Spring-Summer 2015

Project Website

Venice was created as a series of transitions from mainland to lagoon, from lagoon to the Mediterranean, and eventually to a network of ports and islands that became part of an empire of commerce. The original settlement, built on low tidal islands, was created in a precarious balance between the land and water, the community permeated by canals in a continuous, complex and skillfully leveraged relationship. The contrast between ‘natural’ and ‘artificial’ has always been a distinctive feature of the city, an emblem of Venetians’ inventiveness and tenacity as well as of nature’s destructive and transformative force.

The lagoon therefore conditions the city: they exist in a contrapuntal dialogue, the voice of each essential to the whole. This profound connectedness between Venice and the lagoon is expressed in historic maps, which show the city in the center, defended by a cordon of beaches that separate and protect it from the open sea: a lagoon full of islands of fields, churches and clock towers. The co-existence of fishing, hunting, and agriculture (the cultivation of all kinds of fruits and vegetables, vineyards and herbs) in the lagoon habitat both permitted and promoted Venice’s development. Religious communities were vital nodes in a system of food production and trade: starting in the earliest centuries after the founding of Venice, a series of island monasteries supported a stable galaxy of farms, saltworks, mills, and fish producers.

Historic images of Venice show another unique feature of Venice: a city without enclosing walls. The lagoon, with its strategically located forts, religious establishments, hospitals and quarantine stations, was the real ‘wall’ of the city. Venice redesigned the natural landscape, and sometimes with majestic architecture, to protect itself from human enemies and disease.

Our exhibition, Water and Food in Venice. Stories of the Lagoon and the City, opening September 26, 2015 at the Ducal Palace, is the result of a long-term research initiative developed by an international team of young historians of art, architecture and cities. The group includes experts in mapping, modeling and multimedia from Iuav (Venice), Padua and Duke Universities: Water and Food in Venice is the first public-facing presentation of the multifaceted collaboration that began in 2010 as “Visualizing Venice,” the joint inspiration of Caroline Bruzelius (Duke University) and Donatella Calabi (University IUAV of Venice).

A key feature of the exhibition is to model how the support systems for the Republic of Venice addressed questions that are critical on a global scale to us today: supplying densely-inhabited communities with fresh food and water. The exhibition offers the opportunity to consider historical models for large-scale environmental management in a setting unique in its challenges and diversity. The exhibition forms part of larger initiatives connected with the 2015 International Exposition in Milan, “Feeding the Planet.”

Statues Speak

Elizabeth BaltesSheila Dillon


Statues are all around us, but we often walk past them without reflecting on who or what they represent. Once shiny new landmarks in the built environment, statues can become invisible over time. In our hurry to get from one place to another, we do not stop to read the inscriptions that often tell us why the statue was set up. In any case, the information given on the statue base is only part of the story. Statues can “speak” to us in many ways, but what if we could actually give them a voice? What would they want to tell us about themselves?

This project, a collaboration between undergraduate students and faculty at Duke University and Coastal Carolina University, aims to help statues speak, to help them tell their own stories. By combining historical research with mobile and web technologies, we will present the “autobiographies” of the statues on Duke’s campus, exploring how they fit into the fabric of Duke’s history and the long-standing practice of setting up honorific portrait statues.



Video research and script by Darrah Panzarella.


Christy Kuesel

Darrah Panzarella

Mary Kate Weggeland

Jessica Williams