The Italian Renaissance vs. a Clueless Undergraduate


The Italian Renaissance vs. a Clueless Undergraduate

A project I have been working on these past few weeks in the Visual Media Workshop is the scanning of images from two texts suggested by Professor Chris Nygren: Votive Panels and Popular Piety in Modern Italy authored by Fredrika Herman Jacobs and The Miraculous Image in Renaissance Florence by Megan Holmes. The task was pretty straightforward. I was required to scan every image in the two texts and input the accompanying data into the history of art and architecture image library. 

Before the completion of this section, I was informed of a part two: the organizing of Nygren's images, taken during his ventures through Italy. To be completely honest, I wasn’t very confident I could contribute much to this portion of the project, as I only have a very limited knowledge on the subject. I’m not even an art history student, much less a connoisseur of italian renaissance works.

During my work through part one, I had taken some liberties in time and stole moments to skim through paragraphs describing the intentions and symbols behind the artworks and to my surprise, as I sifted through the hundreds of Nygren’s born digital images, I realized how much I must’ve subconsciously retained. I was able to recognize important figures, who they might be, and what scenes were being depicted. Of course, it still wasn’t close to the amount of background knowledge I would need but it was interesting to note.

I first tackled the task by assorting the images into broad categories: Location 1, Location 2, etc. Differentiating between each site was relatively easy. Painting styles as well as interior details (level of fading in colors through time, lighting, material of the structure) were of great help. It was like piecing together a puzzle, taking small clues from each photo and connecting them in some way to the next. After grouping the images into the general categories, I went more into detail. Generally, within each location were photos taken in multiple rooms of multiple artworks. Using context clues, I created separate folders devoted to each so that the only step left would be to identify each fresco or sculpture.

Overall, it wasn’t too difficult. The task took longer than expected, as I had to repeatedly refer back to earlier photos to determine whether they were of the same fresco. In some cases, the only clue I had to go by would be a corner of a hat or a flailing stray arm in the shadows of an image. I think its a project any undergraduate student would be able to work on with success.

  • Visual Knowledge
  • Undergraduate Work
  • VMW