The Sculpted Figure

I thought around about this time that I’d begin to look at approaches to the main effigy on the tomb. My focus at present is on the figure of Sir John and, if given the time, I will then look at Maude. As can be seen from the photos and the scanned data that I managed to obtain, there’s very little left to give me much of a clue as to the nature of the original sculpted form. Much of the problem stems from the nature of alabaster, a fine-grained variety of gypsum with a likeness to the much more robust and expensive marble. Its softness enables it to be carved easily into elaborate forms but makes it susceptible to damage and its solubility in water renders it unsuitable for outdoor work.

3D Scan data of the torso

Much of the production of alabaster centred around the Midlands of England, and the term Nottingham Alabaster can mean any produced from around the areas covering Derbyshire, Staffordshire and Nottinghamshire. It is unknown where the Neville tombs alabaster came from. Although it is suggested that Sir John’s son Sir Ralph Neville, whose tomb is at Staindrop Church in the grounds of Castle Raby, obtained the alabaster from Tutbury in Derbyshire due to the family links with John of Gaunt who owned great parts of the county. Perhaps this is also true of Sir John’s tomb?

What remains is a torso without head arms or legs. I would hazard that at some point in time the effigy may have been levered off the tomb. There is damage on one side of the castellated sculpted stone border that has at some point been replaced in part with carved wooden copies. There can also be seen wooden blocks used to hold the torso in place; perhaps the majority of the major damage was done at this time – but this is just conjecture.

The Neville tomb showing carved wooden repairs to the surrounding stone work (to the left) and the extent of the damage to the top of the tomb.

The torso showing the level of damage and graffiti carved into the alabaster and the Neville saltire carved onto the surcoat.


3D Studio Max and some re-toplogy tests

In Geomagic the data was assembled and holes were filled where appropriate. I initially imported to 3D Coat but I’ve found I prefer 3D Max for retpoplogy. Taking some of the basic carved forms I’m looking at using the step build method and then exporting to Mudbox.

Basic surface retopology using the step-build method in 3D Studio Max 2012

Exported retoplogised mesh into Mudbox 2012

Geomagic Outcomes

Using Geomagic

Geomagic Studio transforms 3D scan data into usable 3D polygonal, surface and CAD data, with parametric integration for MCAD products (CATIA, Autodesk Inventor, Creo Elements/Pro (Pro/ENGINEER), SolidWorks), using  automated and  tools for 3D creation and imaging.

The resulting scan data was patchy, but there was enough to be able to use to reconstruct the largely repetitive elements that surround the tomb. Once I had the data on my computer I needed to check it over a composited Photoshop file. I added some colour overlays to help make sense of where they were located on the surface.

Scanning the Neville Tomb

Surface Scanning the Tomb

The tomb of Sir John Neville is located in the South Aisle at Durham Cathedral. There seems to be conflicting opinion as to how the tomb became so badly vandalised. Whether by Scots prisoners of war in the 1600’s or during the many violent periods of social and religious upheaval in Durham’s history, its remaining alabaster figures have been severely damaged over time. Typical of the age of its construction, to the medieval observer this carved representation with its use of typifaction, heraldic iconography and polychromatic paint and gilt, provided not only a focus of devotion and memory, but of an ideal of the notion of chivalry and of political power and affiliation. It therefore provides the researcher with an opportunity to examine alternative methods and  workflows within archaeological visualisation and further provides an opportunity to critically evaluate approaches to deliberately mediated sculptural surrogates and their location within historical representation.

I’d made an initial visit in July, where I’d first encountered the Neville Tombs and so a second visit to was made in mid September and a series of scans taken of the surface with the School portable 3D scanner. The Minolta scanner captures the object surface from a single point.  On activation of the scanner, the laser moves across the target object. The laser touches the object and the light is reflected back to the scanner,  which captures the surface data of the shape, and records the measurement of an object at a distance between 4 mm or 3 metres. The measurements are translated into an impact location, and are then displayed by the software as cloud point data, or cloud data which initially form the 3D shape of the recorded object in the 3D software.  There was a certain amount of restriction given the location of the Tomb, however enough data was captured to enable a decent attempt at some test retopology.

The Minolta 3D Scanner used to scan the surface topology of the tomb of Sir John Neville: Photo F Fitzpatrick 30/09/11