An Update from Florence

December 2, 2022

What Professor Bent has been up to lately!

Upcoming scans, never-before-seen views, and dealing with Italian weather- an inside look into what Professor Bent has been doing.

Work progresses at a healthy pace this autumn. I have been in Florence since October 1 and have scanned the interiors, facades, and rooflines of two local churches – SS. Apostoli and S. Trinita – near the banks of the Arno River. Both trace their roots back to at least the early 12th century, although some argue for an 8th-century date for the former (I’m dubious) and an 11th-century date for the latter (checks out). I’m grateful to the owners of properties surrounding these sites for permitting me access to vantage points above and around these targeted structures: Florentines have opened their homes to me on very short notice and have let me scan from the private rooms of their apartments, showing both a civic responsibility to support the research of their native city and blind trust in the tall, balding American who has had the temerity to ask them to let me in. This was on full display in the Piazza S. Lorenzo, where three unusually generous people went out of their way to grant me access to areas that helped me complete the scanning of the church and cloisters next door. I’m predicting that, as a result of their kindness, these models will provide viewers with new vistas of spaces they have never seen before.

With scheduled appointments arranged for the south transept of the Duomo and the eastern and northern flanks of S. Maria Novella (all under scaffoldings in 2020 and 2021), revised models of those two structures should be updated on the Buonsignori Map by August 2023. The foundations of the former Debtors’ Prison (called the “Stinche,” illustrated in a couple of paintings by Fabio Borbottoni in the late 19th century – see will be scanned later this month. Negotiations have been initiated with the proprietors of three significant churches to scan their buildings (I can’t reveal names until agreements are in place, but we’re close). Along with Lorenzo Vigotti (currently with the Medici Archive Project in Florence), I will begin scanning some of the local palaces that housed patrician families during the early decades of the Italian Renaissance. Dave Pfaff and student collaborators will have their hands full with all of these projects for months to come.

Now that the season has changed here, opportunities for exterior scanning dwindle by the day. Sunrise at 7:30 am makes it tough to capture areas before delivery trucks begin their steady stream of high velocity sprints through the city before 8:00. Early sunsets truncate any activity the requires natural light, either indoors or out. The rains that typify November in Tuscany thankfully held off for a few weeks, but I’m finding that I need to be careful about picking my days for façade work outdoors now that we’re in December and the heavens open unexpectedly. Fortunately, most of the remaining projects I want to complete this year are either of modest scale or largely indoors, so I’m confident that nearly everything on my list of priority structures can be scanned by the end of May 2023.

Two public talks in Florence are being lined up for this winter/spring, with the Study Abroad centers at both Syracuse and Stanford expressing interest in seeing the scanner in action – the equipment that is, not the person doing the scanning.

If you haven’t already done so, check out the search engine on our Buonsignori Map (the magnifying glass at the top of the image) to find artworks arranged by artist, title, date, patron, site, subject, and iconography. You can see individual works or clusters of them in their original locations in the city depending on how you type in your query. The FLAW team has done a great job setting this up and entering data during the pandemic months, taking advantage of our required lock-out from International travel to tackle this massive part of the project at home. Mackenzie Brooks and Ava Boussy took the lead in setting this up, and they’re both awesome.

Models will soon be populated with new essays edited by Julia Brinker; translations of Giuseppe Richa’s 18th-century descriptions of Florentine churches by Jorge Gomez will also appear. Photogrammetric and point cloud models edited and stitched together by Ellie Penner and Ava Boussy are due for publication any day now. Kelsie Westmoreland is deeply involved in transitioning our materials to WikiData. And Michael Kharadze is busy redesigning our landing page to make it more intuitive for all viewers. It’s a great team, and I’m lucky to work with them all.