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3D Reliquary

“A 3D model and exemplum of a fifteenth-century Italo-Byzantine reliquary”

Conference paper delivered at the Association for Computers and the Humanities (ACH) 2019 Conference, Pittsburgh, PA 

Justin Greenlee and Victoria Valdes

This lightning talk delivered by (2) collaborators relates to the creation of a 3D print of an Italo-Byzantine staurothēkē (a work of art that is a reliquary, or container, for relics of the True Cross from the crucifixion of Christ). Our model is based on photographs taken in the Gallerie dell’Accademia in Venice, Italy, which we then extrapolated to three dimensions using topographical features and the ability to hand-render in Rhinoceros. The talk is directed to digital humanists interested in the software, skills, and machinery needed to bring a 3D print to completion. It will also be of interest to those who would like to construct a 3D model but lack direct access to their object of interest and/or a 3D scanner. 

Our talk begins with a historical introduction to the work of art with a focus on the reliquary as a layered object that was created in the fifteenth century in the city Constantinople. It was here that the core components of a gold cross and a surrounding wooden tablet were produced with subsequent interventions taking place in Italy, where the object was outfitted with ornamentations around a secondary frame and attached to an elaborate silver processional handle. The logic that guided successive renovations to the reliquary is one of accumulation and the massing of sacred material and we chose to tell the complex history of the object by rendering it as a 3D print in five parts. These components can be disassembled and reassembled by a potential handler and in five minutes we will discuss how these revisions and other acts of interpretation make our model an exemplum—or an object about the reliquary—more than a replica.

Keywords: 3D modeling, 3D printing, Rhinoceros

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