Catherine Walsh

Catherine Walsh

Digital Humanities Mellon Fellow
Mapping Sculpture
2016 - 2017 (January-June)


Catherine Walsh is an Assistant Professor of Art at the University of Montevallo. She studied at Vanderbilt University and Boston University, where she earned the Ph.D. in History of Art and Architecture in 2015. Her current research project explores relationships between art, nature, and humans in Italian Renaissance art. This project examines the ways that materials of Renaissance art reveal their own displacement from natural environments and the ways that artworks reflect early modern human beings’ nascent ecological anxiety.

Project Summary

The digital project Mapping Sculpture explores the relationship between art and nature during the early modern period. Mapping Sculpture traces the movement of the materials of sixteenth-century Italian sculpture from sources such as mountains, caves, and rivers to storage areas, artists' workshops, early modern installation sites and private collections, and to current museum locations. Through spatial analysis, this project draws attention to the removal of materials from the natural environment and to the movement of materials and completed artworks. GIS tools are used to analyze the displacement of materials (in terms of volume and distance), and the fragmentation, disappearance, and duration of these materials at the locations that they inhabited over time. In its first iteration, the map visualizes data from a small group of sculptures associated with gardens near Florence, Italy. For instance, the marble for Michelangelo’s Slaves was quarried near Carrara, and four of those blocks remained in the Boboli Gardens for more than three centuries; Ammannati’s multi-block Juno fountain, which was made of Campiglia marble, had constituent parts sent to various Medici villas during the same period. The interactive map will allow users to interrogate the relationships between geological and geographical origins and various subsequent locations, such as these gardens. By visualizing the spatial and material history of sculptures, the map encourages users to critically evaluate the environmental consequences of early modern artistic practices.