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Pompeii Forum Project

During my time at the University of Virginia, I worked at the Digital Media Center, where I was employed through funds from the Institute of Advanced Technology's Pompeii Forum Project.

By request from my graduate advisor John Dobbins, I worked to organize and database project materials so they could be shared by academics around the world via the web. Moreover, I created online resources for teachers, scaled digital 3D models of the Pompeii Forum, and interactive digital maps of Pompeii and other Roman towns. Finally, I translated academic papers into digital presentations and web pages for professors who worked on the Pompeii Forum Project.

The work I did for the Pompeii Forum Project inspired me to integrate CAD technologies into my own studies of art and archaeology. Please read about a few of them below.

Virtual Pompeii

Interactive Map with links to QTVR panoramas of Pompeii

Hadrian's Teatro Maritimo

In this project, I used a CAD program called MicroStation to complete a three dimensional study of Hadrian's Teatro Maritimo. This study supports the view that this unique building served as a refuge for the emperor Hadrian within his own villa at Tivoli, complete with a mote and drawbridges, which could be retracted within the building to provide for complete privacy. Moreover, this study displays that, although circular in shape, the Teatro Maritimo maintained all the classic elements of a traditional Roman Villa: a dominant north south axis that provides a view from the entrance to the tablinum (the reception room of the dominus); an exedra that served as an open air atrium; a bathing complex with a hypocaust heating system; a large triclinium for dining; and toilet facilities with running water and a sewage system. Finally, this study helps prove that the bathing, dining, and reception suites of the Teatro Maritimo had vaulted ceilings and were thus part of the Roman architectural revolution that brought concrete vaulting and domes to western architecture.

Hadrian's Teatro Maritimo, view from the North

Hadrian's Teatro Maritimo, view from the Northwest

Mosaics of Daphne

The mosaics of the so-called Constantinian Villa at Daphne were accidentally found at the end of the Princeton excavations that occured in and around Antioch, Syria in 1935. Because of time limitations and the beginning of World War II, the excavation was rushed and haphazardly documented. In this project, I used CAD technology to create digital models of the architectural setting and return the mosaics – that are now separated from each other in museums – to their original contexts. I also use concepts developed by John Clarke in his study of Roman Black and White Mosaics to devise new ideas on the function of the mosaics and the rooms in which they were found. Using these methods, I argue that the main room of the villa was not a tablinum (a reception room where clients paid tribute to a patron) as previously thought. Rather, I propose that the artistic arrangement and the architectural setting of the mosaics suggest the main room was a triclinium where Roman diners could lounge, eat, and discuss the mythical tales expressed in the mosaics.

Mosaics of the Constantinian Villa from the West

A Possible configuration for walls at the Constantinian Villa

The Hellenic Christ

This project took me to Europe for a year on a research grant to explorer the source of inspiration for the Christ figure in Michelangelo’s Last Judgment on the west wall of the Sistine Chapel. My thesis was that Michelangelo used a Hellenistic wounded Amazon figure (or figures) as a model for the Christ figure.

It is widely known that Michelangelo was greatly inspired and influenced by Roman copies of Hellenistic Greek sculpture. Scholars like Howard Hibbard have noted the influence of sculptures like the Laocoon and the Belvedere Torso on Michelangelo. In his 1985 book on Michelangelo (85), Hibbard suggests that Michelangelo communed with the pathos expressed in the Laocoon and was in love with the Belvedere Torso (123). The influence of the Belvedere Torso can be directly seen in sketches Michelangelo did of the sculpture (see to the right).

It is clear that Michelangelo was familiar with wounded Amazon figures in the Capitoline Museum in Rome. Moreover, I found a quote in the Capitoline Museum Library in which Michelangelo stated that one of the Amazon figures was “the most beautiful object in all of Rome.” However, the similarities between wounded Amazon figures and the Last Judgment Christ provide the strongest evidence that Michelangelo used an Amazon figure as a model. Amazon figures and the Last Judgment Christ both have the following characteristics: a contropposto (hip shot) pose; an expressive gestural pose with the right hand up with fingers extended and the left hand down across body; wavy hair parted in the center with locks of hair wrapping back around head; a strong turn of the neck with head slightly tilted down and to the side; and a spear wound under the right arm.

There are also perhaps psychological reasons for Michelangelo using an Amazon as a model for the Last Judgment Christ. It is well known that Michelangelo did not want to paint the Last Judgment and that he painted under duress, as he faced constant criticism from his patrons. Nevertheless, much like Christ in the Last Judgment, Michelangelo stoically accepted his fate and completed his duty. Both the wounded Amazon and the Last Judgment Christ do the same; they contain and restrain their physical and psychological pain. As he did with the Laocoon, Michelangelo communed with the pathos expressed by the wounded Amazon and used it to portray Christ’s heroism in determining the fate of mankind in the Last Judgment.


Michelangelo's Study for the Battle of Cascina and to the Belvedare Torso
From: “Michelangelo.” Giorgio Vasari’s Lives of the Most Eminent Painters, Sculptors and Architects. October 3, 2002. December 12, 2014. <http://easyweb.easynet.co.uk/giorgio.vasari/michel/pic23.htm>.

Students Drawing from Statues in the Capitoline Museum
From: Haskel and Penny, Taste and Antique. Yale University Press, 1981.

Wounded Amazon Compared to Michelangelo's Last Judgment Christ

Wounded Amazon Compared to Michelangelo's Last Judgment Christ

Archaeological Digs

While studying art history in Rome as an undergraduate student, I learned that there is no better education for an art historian than to learn on site. I also learned that ancient objects and the stories they tell are especially intriguing to me. Therefore, between my undergraduate and graduate studies, I applied for a research grant to complete the Hellenic Christ project described above. During my time abroad, I also studied foreign languages and tried my hand at archaeology. My travels first brought me to Tynemouth in New Castle, England where I worked on the Arbeia Roman Fort Excavation at the end of Hadrian's Wall under Nick Hodges. I found that I enjoyed archeology; therefore, while working abroad, I applied and was admitted to graduate programs in Chicago and at the University of Virginia (UVA). I chose UVA because it had a program in Classical Art and Archaeology. Moreover, professor John Dobbins, who became my graduate advisor, is know for his innovative use of technology in his studies of sites and objects. While at UVA, I was admitted to the American Academy in Rome to study archaeology and work on the Auditorium Recovery Excavation under renowned Roman archeologist Andrea Carandini. The Auditorium excavation set out to recover and preserve an early Republican Villa before Renzo Piano (architect of the Pompidou Centre in Paris, the Tokyo Airport, and London’s Shard) developed the area to build the Auditorium Parco della Musica, a multifunctional music and performing arts center in Rome. I found this dig to be truly facinating. I was diging up a Republican Villa just next to the Milvian Bridge, the infamous site where Constantine the Great saw the Chi Ro before converting to Christianity. Knowing the history of the site and understanding that a modern architect would reuse the space while preserving the old made me feel that I was part of a contiguous history that bridged the past and the future. I have visited the Auditorium since I worked on the dig and one can still view the foundation of the villa I helped to dig up.

Arbeia Roman Fort Excavation Site

Auditorium Parco della Musica with Excavation Site Preserved

Kevin's new best friend in archaeology