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.
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).
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)
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.
What tools, resources, programs, or equipment did you use for this project?
white balance card (example: X-Rite Color Checker)
portable copy stand with independent lighting
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.
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
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.”
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.
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.
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