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A Digital Reconstruction of Tiles from Chertsey Abbey

Published onMay 09, 2022
A Digital Reconstruction of Tiles from Chertsey Abbey
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Team

Amanda Luyster, Ph.D. - faculty member in the Department of Visual Arts (Art History) at the College of the Holy Cross, Worcester, Massachusetts and person asking the research question. She went to the British Museum in 2017 and photographed all the fragments. Her research has hypothesized the arrangement of the surrounding text.

Martina Umunna '18 - student Research Associate that digitally isolated the fragments from their copystand background.

Janis DesMarais (the author) - Visual Literacy and Arts Librarian at the College of the Holy Cross. Took the fragments and reconstructed the round tile designs with the proposed text arrangement, and reconstructed a virtual floor.

Project Abstract

In response to a research question posed by Professor Amanda Luyster, Ph.D. (What did the Chertsey tile fragments originally look like, when laid as a floor?), I used Photoshop to reconstruct 13th-century medieval floor tile designs which for years have been understood through the black and white drawings by Elizabeth Eames published in 1980. We were looking for the reconstructions to potentially reveal new information that the black and white images lacked. In at least one instance we did discover new information (see video of Eames 470).

Eames 473

Eames 470 - The digital reconstruction has revealed that the shield only depicts a single chevron, not two as drawn by Eames.

Eames 462 - The fragment from the bottom left is held by the Chertsey Museum and was not available or known to Eames for her 1980 drawing.

Time Needed

When did you begin this project? When did you complete this project?

Time Span: May 1, 2016 - present

Length: 7 years (total from project inception to public exhibition)

Outcomes

What is the outcome of the project?

The faculty member plans to publish parts of the reconstruction within her broader research (see Publications & Presentations below). I have still images and video of the reconstruction.

January 27-April 9, 2023 exhibition at the Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Gallery, College of the Holy Cross entitled Bringing the Holy Land Home: The Crusades, Chertsey Abbey, and the Reconstruction of a Medieval Masterpiece. This exhibition seeks to clarify the impact that art objects manufactured far away, particularly in the Byzantine and Islamic Mediterranean, had on the medieval visual culture of England. It will include a digital immersive experience of the floor reconstruction as well as physical fragments and reconstruction(s) borrowed from international museums. An exhibition catalog including scholarly essays will be published by Harvey Miller.

Resources

What tools, resources, programs, or equipment did you use for this project?

  • digital camera

  • white balance card (example: X-Rite Color Checker)

  • portable copy stand with independent lighting

  • Adobe Photoshop

Funding

Please describe any costs incurred for this project, and (if relevant) how you secured funding for these costs.

  • Travel to the British Museum by the faculty member - internal faculty research grant.

  • Student Research Associate - internal application to a college program by the faculty member.

Workflow

Please give an overview of the workflow or process you followed to execute this project, including time estimates where possible.

Luyster and I worked together to determine the best method to photograph the floor tile fragments. She photographed them on site at the British Museum in 2017. A student Research Associate, Martina Umunna '18, selected out the fragments from the copystand background. I placed these puzzle pieces over the black & white Eames drawings in Photoshop and manipulated the opacity settings of each layer to precisely set each fragment. After digitally reconstructing each of the 12 round combat tile designs, I arranged the textual tiles according to Luyster's suggestions, filling in the remaining space with ornamental crown tiles. I reconstructed a virtual floor using the 12 designs and "filler" tiles known to have been used in the original floor pattern. I created looping GIFs, MP4s, and still images to share the results. 

  • 2016 - teaser reconstruction made from recolored black and white published drawings;

  • first half of 2017 - faculty member applied for an internal grant to travel to the British Museum to take photos of the hundreds of tile fragments; obtained server space from campus ITS; planned method to photograph the fragments; faculty traveled to the UK to photograph fragments;

  • fall 2017 - faculty member applied for and was awarded funds to support a student Research Associate (this student selected out the fragments from the copystand background using Photoshop to make virtual puzzle pieces); developed a folder structure to organize the fragments by design number then accession/object number within each design;

  • 2018-2019 - digitally reconstructed each of 12 designs using Photoshop; arranged text/alphabetic tiles around each design in response to the faculty member's research; reconstructed a virtual floor;

  • 2020-2023 - planning for the 2023 exhibition at the Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery including publication of the exhibition catalogue

Challenges & Opportunities

Is there anything specific you wish you had known when beginning your project that might help other people to know?

Amanda Luyster shares that , “I wish I had known that we would need to create multiple versions of the final product, as a way of dealing with uncertainty.”

Next Steps

Do you have any plans to follow up on this project or work on something similar in the future?

I am continuing with the project as new information regarding the text surrounding the designs is shared with me and also plan to be involved in any future exhibition of the work locally or elsewhere.

Publications & Presentations

Luyster, Amanda, ed. Bringing the Holy Land Home: The Crusades, Chertsey Abbey, and the Reconstruction of a Medieval Masterpiece.  London: Harvey Miller, 2023.

Luyster, Amanda. “Fragmented Tile, Fragmented Text: Richard the Lionheart on Crusade and the Lost Latin Texts of the Chertsey Combat Tiles (c.1250).” Digital Philology 11, no. 1 (Spring 2022): 86-120. https://doi.org/10.1353/dph.2022.0007 

Luyster, Amanda. “Old, Valuable, and Strange: Medieval Practices of Collection and Modern Global Exhibitions.” Invited lecture and roundtable, Delaware Valley Medieval Association, September 2021. https://curatingartoftheglobalmiddleages.blogs.brynmawr.edu/prerecorded-talks/

Luster, Amanda. “From Fragment to Floor: A Digital Reconstruction of the Chertsey Combat Series Tiles (English, c. 1250) and Their Lost Texts.”  University of Oxford, (en)coding Heritage Seminar Series, May 2021. https://torch.ox.ac.uk/a-digital-reconstruction-of-the-chertsey-combat-series-tiles-english-c.-1250-prof.-amanda-luyster

Lusyter, Amanda. “English Visions of the East: Henry III, the Crusades, and the Cosmopolitan Culture of Display in Thirteenth-century England.”  College of the Holy Cross, Faculty Scholarship Lunch series, February 2019.

Luyster, Amanda. “English Bodies, Imported Silks: Byzantine Textiles in Thirteenth-century England.”  The Mary Jaharis Center for Byzantine Art and Culture and the Committee on Medieval Studies, Harvard University, November 2018.

Appendix - Images & Video

All images and video © Janis Desmarais and Amanda Luyster
Case Study Version - Chertsey Combat Tiles Reconstruction Documentation
Digital reconstruction variations, mp4 videos, and additional documentation available upon request

Eames 462 - Archer

Eames 462 - Crossbowman
Text - O:MI LES
(file name: Eames 462 new.jpg)

Eames 462 - Crossbowman with fragments at 82% opacity over b&w Eames drawing
Text - O:MI LES
(file name: Eames 462 new at 82 percent.jpg)

Eames 462 - Crossbowman
Looping gif
(file name: Eames-462-new-animation-600x600.gif)

Eames 463 - Man raising a club

Eames 463 - Man raising a club
Text - RuIS BAC VLO
(file name: Eames 463.jpg)

Eames 463 - Man raising a club with fragments at 82% opacity over b&w Eames drawing
Text - RuIS BAC VLO
(file name: Eames 463 at 82 percent.jpg)

Eames 463 - Man raising a club
Looping gif
(file name: Eames-463-animation_600x600.gif)

Eames 466 - Richard the Lionheart

Eames 466 - Richard the Lionheart
Text - :RICA GAT IA: REX A GLI
(file name: Eames 466.jpg)

Eames 466 - Richard the Lionheart
Looping gif
(file name: Eames-466-animation_600x600.gif)

Eames 467 - Saladin

Eames 467 - Saladin
Text - SEL LIA DEN :Ro FIGI T:
(file name: Eames 467.jpg)

Eames 467 - Saladin
Looping gif
(file name: Eames-467-animation_600x600.gif)

Eames 468 - Crossbowman

Eames 468 - Crossbowman
Text - V ORIA: ELA TI
(file name: Eames 468.jpg)

Eames 468 - Crossbowman
Looping gif
(file name: Eames-468-animation_600x600.gif)

Eames 469 - Lion towering over a mounted knight

Eames 469 - Lion towering over a mounted knight
Text - MAG LEO PE NET RAT:
(file name: Eames 469.jpg)

Eames 469 - Lion towering over a mounted knight with fragments at 82% opacity over b&w Eames drawing
Text - MAG LEO PE NET RAT:
(file name: Eames 469 at 82 percent.jpg)

Eames 469 - Lion towering over a mounted knight
Looping gif
(file name: Eames-469-animation_600x600.gif)

Eames 470 - Lion and standing knight - two versions

Eames 470 - Lion and standing knight
Text - AVD eT: WL(VUL) NERE VN (UN) GVe: (Gue:)
(file name: Eames 470.jpg)

Eames 470 - Lion and standing knight with fragments at 82% opacity over b&w Eames drawing
Text - AVD eT: WL(VUL) NERE VN (UN) GVe: (Gue:)
(file name: Eames 470 at 82 percent.jpg)

Eames 470 - Lion and standing knight
Looping gif
(file name: Eames-470-animation_600x600.gif)

Eames 470 - Lion and standing knight (fragments laid over a Victoria and Albert reconstruction)
Text - AVD eT: WL(VUL) NERE VN (UN) GVe: (Gue:)
(file name: Eames 470_plus VA.jpg)

Eames 470 - Lion and standing knight (fragments laid over a Victoria and Albert reconstruction)
Looping gif
(file name: Eames-470_plus-VA-animation_600x600.gif)

Eames 471 - Classicizing rider attacked by a lion - three versions

Eames 471 - Classicizing rider attacked by a lion (fragments only)
Text - PERIT LEO hAS
(file name: Eames 471 A.jpg)

Eames 471 - Classicizing rider attacked by lion with fragments at 82% opacity over b&w Eames drawing
Text - PERIT LEO hAS
(file name: Eames 471 A at 82 percent.jpg)

Eames 471 - Classicizing rider attacked by lion (fragments only)
Looping gif
(file name: Eames-471-A-animation_600x600.gif)

Eames 471 - Classicizing rider attacked by a lion (fragments laid over BM reconstruction)
Text - PERIT LEO hAS
(file name: Eames 471 B.jpg)

Eames 471 - Classicizing rider attacked by a lion (fragments laid over BM reconstruction) with fragments and BM reconstruction at 82% opacity over b&w Eames drawing
Text - PERIT LEO hAS
(file name: Eames 471 B at 82 percent.jpg)

Eames 471 - Classicizing rider attacked by a lion (Round design physical reconstruction completed by the BM)
Text - PERIT LEO hAS TA:
(file name: Eames 471 C.jpg

Eames 471 - Classicizing rider attacked by a lion with BM reconstruction at 82% opacity over the b&w Eames drawing
Text - PERIT LEO hAS TA:
(file name: Eames 471 C at 82 percent.jpg)

Eames 472 - Samson - two versions

Eames 472 - Samson (fragments only)
Text - VIRT ~sAM FOR TIS FRE ORA LEO
(file name: Eames 472 A.jpg)

Eames 472 - Samson with fragments at 82% opacity over b&w Eames drawing
Text - VIRT ~sAM FOR TIS FRE ORA LEO
(file name: Eames 472 A at 82 percent.jpg)

Eames 472 - Samson
Looping gif
(file name: Eames-472-A-animation_600x600.gif)

Eames 472 - Samson (fragments laid over BM reconstruction)
Text - VIRT ~sAM FOR TIS FRE ORA LEO
(file name: Eames 472 B.jpg)

Eames 473 - Mounted archer turning to take the “Parthian shot”

Eames 473 - Mounted archer turning to take the “Parthian shot”
Text - :GLI SCO
(file name: Eames 473.jpg)

Eames 473 - Mounted archer turning to take the “Parthian shot” with fragments at 82% opacity over b&w Eames drawing
Text - :GLI SCO
(file name: Eames 473 at 82 percent.jpg)

Eames 473 - Mounted archer turning to take the “Parthian shot”
Looping gif
(file name: Eames-473-animation_600x600.gif)

Eames 474 - Trial by combat - two versions

Eames 474 - Trial by combat (fragments only)
Text - TEG O:
(file name: Eames 474 A.jpg)

Eames 474 - Trial by combat with fragments at 82% opacity over b&w Eames drawing
Text - TEG O:
(file name: Eames 474 A at 82 percent.jpg)
Fragment 1885,1113.9081 is hidden from view in this image because it doubles the thickness of the layers in the top left and does not offer any substantial additional information in this area

Eames 474 - Trial by combat
Looping gif
(file name: Eames-474-A-animation_600x600.gif)

Eames 474 - Trial by combat (fragments laid over BM reconstruction)
Text - TEG O:
(file name: Eames 474 B.jpg)

Eames 474 - Trial by combat with fragments at 82% opacity over BM round design reconstruction at 70% opacity over b&w Eames drawing
Text - TEG O:
(file name: Eames 474 B at 82-70 percent.jpg)

Eames 474 - Trial by combat (fragments over BM reconstruction)
Looping gif
(file name: Eames-474-B-animation_600x600.gif)

Eames 475 - Head of an enemy - two versions

Eames 475 - Head of an enemy (fragment from the BM)
Text - MORS CRi ACCI DIT
(file name: Eames 475.jpg)

Eames 475 - Head of an enemy with fragment at 82% opacity over b&w Eames drawing
Text - MORS CRi ACCI DIT
(file name: Eames 475 at 82 percent v2.jpg)

Eames 475 - Head of an enemy
Looping gif
(file name: Eames-475-animation_600x600.gif)

Eames 475 - Head of an enemy (fragment courtesy of the Surrey Archaeological Society)
Text - MORS CRi ACCI DIT
(file name: Eames 475 Guildford.jpg)

Eames 475 - Head of an enemy with fragment at 82% opacity over b&w Eames drawing
Text - MORS CRi ACCI DIT
(file name: Eames 475 Guildford at 82 percent.jpg)

Eames 475 - Head of an enemy (fragment courtesy of the Surrey Archaeological Society)
Looping gif
(file name: Eames-475-Guildford-animation_600x600.gif)

Mosaic Pavement Digital Reconstructions - three versions

Mosaic pavement digital reconstruction - version A (2016) - composite of colored Eames drawings and photographs
(file name: Chertsey floor- stage 2.jpg)

Mosaic pavement digital reconstruction - version B (2022) - photographic composite showing roundels (surrounded by crowns only)
(file name: FLOOR-crowns_3x4-March22B.jpg)

Mosaic pavement digital reconstruction - version C (2022) - photographic composite showing roundels surrounded by partial texts
(file name: FLOOR-text_3x4-March22B.jpg)

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