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Leonardo Impett defends second EPFL Digital Humanities thesis

Following an online defense on May 8th, Leonardo Impett became the second doctoral student to earn a PhD from the EDDH, the digital humanities doctoral program in EPFL’s College of Humanities (CDH) Digital Humanities Institute (DHI).

Impett defended his thesis, “Painting by Numbers: Computational Methods for the History of Art”, remotely as part of EPFL’s social distancing measures. His doctoral research focused on the application of computational methods to visual phenomena in the study of art history.

For example, Impett applied literary historian Franco Moretti’s theory of distant reading – which uses data science and computational analysis methods to analyze large volumes of literary text at once – to Renaissance paintings. This approach allowed him to analyze on a broad scale, for instance, iconographies of divine light or human gestures in works of art; something that would otherwise require time-consuming close analysis of individual paintings.

This research was carried out with DHI Director Sabine Süsstrunk, head of EPFL’s Image and Visual Representation Lab (IVRL), and Franco Moretti, an emeritus professor of Stanford University and regular lecturer at EPFL.

Impett joined the IVRL in 2015, after earning his master’s and bachelor’s degrees engineering from the University of Cambridge. In 2018, he was a fellow in digital humanities at Villa I Tatti, the Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies, in Florence. Since 2019, Impett has also been a digital humanities scientist at the Bibliotheca Hertziana – Max Planck Institute for Art History in Rome. He spent the last two years of his PhD writing his thesis in both Rome and Florence.

In December 2019, Fabian Moss became the first graduate of the EDDH program, when he defended his thesis on historical changes in tonality in the CDH’s Digital and Cognitive Musicology Lab (DCML).

This article was originally published on the EPFL College of Humanities website.