Final Report and Mini-Presentation

UPDATED May 25 MarkCutkosky


This is your chance to explore in a bit more depth a topic of your own choosing. The report can be done invidually or in groups of 2 (or possibly more if there are several sub-topics to divide it into. As discussed in class, we'll have a Poster Session (like in typical scientific conference) in which we can admire and celebrate each other's findings and get some final feedback before writing up the document.

The writeup can be fairly brief - focusing on the main points of what you found and what the sources are. It is essentially an archival companion to yor poster. (2 years from now, will you or I remember how to track down the information? -- If you've cited the sources properly it should be no problem.) You are aiming for more of an editorial synposis than a tutorial. Don't reiterate stuff that is in the original sources -- just point us to it. We're more interested your own conclusions (adequately supported) at this point. We hope to read something insightful...

A good stylistic model could be an editorial book review such as you often find in the back section of a journal like Scientific American or Atlantic Monthly.

The main points:

  • What was most interesting or though-provoking about what you found? Why?
  • Where did you find it?
  • What are your conclusions?

I would like to meet with each person or group a couple of times before end of quarter to give guidance. There are a number of interesting topics that we do not have time to cover explicitly in the class that you might like to think about:

Suggested Topics

1. The FrescoTechnology -- You've seen many frescos and you know they are among the most durable of paintings because of the way the pigment is locked into the plaster. Frescos are also a bit tricky to do. There is a good bit of information on the technique and the chemistry involved. We could even consider making a small fresco... let me know if you want to do this because it would require getting some lime putty ASAP. There is a negozio delle belle arte in via studio near the duomo. Also Fiorenza's husband, Alessanro, knows of some places to get traditional plaster. If you decide to actually do a fresco this could be a good 3 person project I think, given the combination of hands-on and research work. A great book to read is Michelangelo and Pope's Ceiling" by Ross King.

2. SieneseArtistEngineers -- Everybody knows about da Vinici and many people know about Brunelleschi. Far fewer people know about the Sienese artist/engineers like Taccola and Francesco di Giorgio Martini. And yet they did some fine art and engineering too. In some sense they represent an interesting intermediate stage between the self-taught engineer (Brunelleschi) and the quansi-scientist/philosopher that da Vinci became. You could do a bio on one of these, look at what they did and how they did it, and how they represent a stage in the evolution.

3. BronzeCasting. Brunelleschi, da Vinci, Ghiberti, Donatello and many others did bronze casting. It was a tricky process (it still can be a tricky process). Learn about process, what the practical problems were and what people did about them. It will also be useful to learn a bit about how bronze casting is done today and how artisans deal with the same problems. There are several sub-topics under this heading including: processes and methods (what were they and how did they work?), problems and their solutions, the effects of age and methods of restoration.

4. MarbleQuarryingAndTransport -- It was a big problem, tricky and very expensive. Hence Brunelleschi's ill-fated Badalone attempt and many other efforts by others to reduce the effort in procuring and transporting large blocks of marble. Michelangelo and other artists would often personally go to the quarry and oversee the extraction of favored pieces of marble. Why did they do this? There is some interesting technology to learn about also. How were the large blocks of marble cut? How are they cut today? Perhaps a field trip to Carrara (bellissima!). Also some good bits of explanation in Michelangelo and Pope's Ceiling" by Ross King.

5. PaintingRestoration -- What goes wrong with old paintings and how are they restored? This is a big topic and one could focus on oil or tempura painting or on fresco restoration as a subtopic. Different techniques and materials (e.g. Japanese mulberry paper) are used for different kinds of paintings.

6. PadrePioChurch -- A fascinating and beautiful modern example of stone arches used to create a unique (and huge) space. In addition to being beautiful, the church is a major engineering feat that stays true to the tradition of masonry construction. The arches are truly load-bearing, as in the Roman buildings and Romanesque and Renaissance churches. That is, they are not a "veneer" or facade on a steel or steel-reinforced substrate. However, some modern provisions like steel plates and interior cables have been added to enhance stability in case of an earthquake.

-- MarkCutkosky - 12 May 2005; updated June 3

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