The Digital Art History Lab Lectures

All lectures are free and open to the public. To register online for these events, please visit the institutional calendar. For any additional questions, please contact

Upcoming Lectures

To see upcoming lectures and/or register, please visit our institutional calendar.

Past Lectures

Hunting for Paper Moldmates in Leonardo da Vinci’s Codices
C. Richard Johnson, Jr. (Cornell University)
Margaret Holben Ellis (New York University)
William A. Sethares (University of Wisconsin - Madison)
Thursday, February 18, 2021

Moldmates are sheets of paper formed one at a time using the same papermaking mold. Due to the manner in which paper was produced before the invention of the papermaking machine, moldmates would naturally be found in the final ream of paper, which would then be procured by an artist. Given their affinity, it can be assumed that paper moldmates share a narrow range of dates and one place of production. Moldmates are identified by matching the patterns that are created by the porous screen of the mold. The areas where the wet paper pulp encountered the wires of the screen as the sheet was being drained are thinner and thus, translucent when held up to light. Often, however, these patterns found within the paper itself are difficult to decipher due to surface marks—writing and drawing—that obscure them.

A video of this event is available.

This work has been supported in part by a grant from the Getty Foundation.

Restoring Notre-Dame: A Look at the Digital Scans That Could Help
Dr. Lindsay Cook, Visiting Assistant Professor of Art, Vassar College
Friday, September 13, 2019

Starting in 2010, the late architectural historian Andrew Tallon used 3D laser scanning technology and high-resolution panoramic photography to create a near-complete digital record, inside and out, of Notre-Dame of Paris, one of the world’s most celebrated structures. Professor Cook presented an overview of Tallon’s achievement and discussed its contribution to the rebuilding of this beloved cathedral in the wake of the tragic fire of April 2019.

A video of this event is available.

Artist Archives Initiative: New Models for Contemporary Artists
Deena Engel, Clinical Professor, Department of Computer Science and Director, Program in Digital Humanities and Social Science, New York University, and Glenn Wharton, Clinical Professor, Museum Studies, New York University
Thursday, May 2, 2019

The Artist Archives Initiative at New York University, a collaborative public resource documenting contemporary artists, responds to a growing need for art world professionals and academic researchers to work with artists in building information resources. The collaborators’ focus is equally on the content of these resources and the software infrastructure used to house the information. In addition to creating artist-specific resources, the project stimulates discussion about variability and authenticity in the display of contemporary art through symposia, workshops, and publications.

A video of the event is available.

Viewing the Gilded Age Art Market Through a Digital Lens
Anne Helmreich, Associate Director for Digital Initiatives at the Getty Research Institute
Wednesday, February 13, 2019

The Gilded Age witnessed the transfer of hundreds of masterpieces from Europe to the United States, a process that consolidated America’s new role as a world power and cultural center. This lecture explored the history of the American art market during Henry Clay Frick’s lifetime, demonstrating how the latest digital methods can offer new perspectives on this exciting period in the history of collecting.

The Watermark Identification in Rembrandt's Etchings (WIRE) Project at Cornell Examines The Frick Collection's Rembrandt Prints
Dr. C. Richard Johnson, Jr., Cornell University
Thursday, December 6, 2018

C. Richard Johnson Jr., Fellow in Computational Arts and Humanities at the Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute and Geoffrey S. M. Hedrick Senior Professor of Engineering, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Cornell University, introduced a groundbreaking project utilizing a computer-assisted decision tree for identifying watermarks in works on paper by Rembrandt van Rijn (1606–1669). Such an analysis helps art historians to date various states of prints as well as offers a more profound understanding of workshop practice. The lecture was followed by a panel discussion with Prof. Johnson’s collaborators Andy Weislogel (Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art) and Margaret Holben Ellis (Institute of Fine Arts, New York University) and The Frick Collection’s Associate Research Curator Margaret Iacono.

A video of this event is available.

Using Digital Humanities to Understand the Architecture of the Holocaust
Paul Jaskot, Professor of Art History and Director of the Wired! Lab, Duke University
Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The Holocaust was a profoundly spatial experience that involved not only the movement of millions of European Jews but also their confinement and murder in sites specifically built for the genocide. Paul Jaskot's talk addresses how perpetrators thought of their building projects and, conversely, how victims experienced these oppressive spaces. Analyzing the architecture of the Holocaust helps us in understanding the larger development, implementation, and context of this crucial event. In addition to an architectural plan and a specific survivor testimony as examples, the lecture also explores how recent methods in Digital Humanities—particularly digital mapping—can be used to investigate plans and testimonies to raise new questions about the architectural and historical significance of the Holocaust.

A video of this event is available.

Using Computed Weave Maps to Gain Art-Historical Insight from Vermeer's Canvases
Dr. C. Richard Johnson, Jr., Cornell University
Tuesday, May 2, 2017

The Thread Count Automation Project (TCAP) launched by Professor Johnson in 2007 discovered striped patterns in color-coded images of local thread densities obtained from digital image processing of x-radiographs of Old Master paintings on canvas. These striped patterns provide a "fingerprint" for pieces of canvas cut from the same roll. This spurred a four-year effort assisted by Walter Liedtke, one of the world's leading scholars of Dutch and Flemish paintings, to gather x-radiographs of all thirty-four paintings on canvas by the Dutch master Johannes Vermeer (1632–1675). Six matching pairs of roll-mates have been identified thus far that provide evidence regarding authentication, dating, and—potentially—artistic intent. In addition to weave density maps, images were created of thread angle from their nominal horizontal and vertical directions. These angle maps provide forensic information regarding warp/weft thread designation and cusping, which offers insight into Vermeer's studio practice and the possible re-sizing of his paintings since their creation. The insights generated by computed weave maps arising from the application of digital image processing are pioneering contributions from engineering to the emerging field of computational art history.

After the presentation, The Frick Collection's Associate Research Curator Margaret Iacono held a conversation with Dr. Johnson about his discoveries regarding some of Vermeer's masterpieces, including The Collection's iconic Mistress and Maid.

A video of this event is available.

Painting Province: A Statistical Analysis of Rural Imagery in Nineteenth-Century French Painting
Diana Greenwald, Research Assistant, Institute of New Economic Thinking at the Oxford Martin School and D.Phil Candidate in Economic and Social History at Wadham College, University of Oxford
Thursday, October 27, 2016

Diana was the Center for the History of Collecting's Junior Fellow for Spring 2017.

Throughout the nineteenth century, urbanization and industrialization were modernizing France’s socio-economic landscape; meanwhile, both the subject matter and style of French art were rapidly changing. Featured among these artistic changes was the growing prominence of landscape and rural genre painting. Scholars have argued that the socio-economic changes caused the artistic ones—that as French populations became more urban, they demanded more images of nature. Using statistical methods and a previously untapped dataset (an unpublished subject index to the roughly 134,000 paintings displayed at the Paris Salon between 1791 and 1881) this talk examined whether or not the production of natural imagery in art can be systematically linked to urbanization and industrialization.

The Art of Seeing in the Digital Age: Aesthetics at the Intersection of Art and Science
Emily L. Spratt, PhD Candidate in Art and Archaeology, Princeton University
Tuesday, May 10, 2016

This presentation explored the use of vision technology for the analysis of art and its philosophical implications for both aesthetic theory and artificial intelligence. Now that computers have the capacity to see at an intelligent level, we as a society are faced with the ethical responsibility of directing the machine’s gaze and telling it how to interpret its visual input. Utilizing old and new methodologies in the history of art, philosophy, and neuroscience that challenge the basis of our understanding of human visual perception itself, Spratt demonstrated that the art of seeing in the digital age has everything to do with the historical underpinnings of the fundamental ties between the arts and sciences.

Specialization and Diversity in Dutch and Flemish Printmaking: A Computational Approach
Matthew Lincoln, PhD, University of Maryland, College Park
Thursday, April 7, 2016

Many 17th-century Dutch and Flemish painters found it commercially advantageous to specialize in particular genres, such as still lifes, landscapes, or portraiture. But did the same hold true for etchers and engravers who produced prints? In this talk, Matthew Lincoln uses quantitative methods from ecology to assess genre diversity in large databases of prints and paintings, such as the Frick Art Reference Library's Montias Database of 17th-Century Dutch Art Inventories. This data-driven approach offers a longue durée framework for studying individual printmakers and their collaborative networks.