Tactile version of "Lucania '61" by Carlo Levi / Versione tattile del telero "Lucania '61" di Carlo Levi

Lucania ’61 is the large canvas (18.50 meters x 3.20 meters) that Carlo Levi painted to describe the Basilicata region and to honor the Lucan friend Rocco Scotellaro. It is kept in the Levi Room of the National Museum of Medieval and Modern Art in Matera. The artwork was commissioned by the Committee for the Celebrations of the Centenary of the Unity of Italy to represent Basilicata at the Italia 61 exhibition (Turin, May 1961). Aim of the project (2019) has been the realization of a tactile version that makes this artwork accessibile to visually impaired people. The 3D model will be soon 3D printed and displayed (September 2024) by the Fondazione Giorgio Amendola - Associazione Lucana in Piemonte Carlo Levi.
The haptic perception is made through contours and reliefs of key characters represented in the canvas. A legend is available for correspondence between high/low reliefs, labeled with Braille letters, and the characters.

The transition from 2D to tactile version is the thesis project of Roberto Nour for his Bachelor degree in Electronic and Computer Engineering (University of Pavia, a.y. 2018/2019), under the supervision of prof. Virginio Cantoni. The 3D model has been adapted for 3D printing by Massimiliano Pini. Advice from Nicola Stilla (Unione Italiana dei Ciechi e degli Ipovedenti - Consiglio Regionale Lombardo) and Giovanni Caserta. The first test 3D prints were made by Stefania Marconi (3D4MED). The final 3D print is done by the Fondazione Giorgio Amendola - Associazione Lucana in Piemonte Carlo Levi.

Lucania '61 by Carlo Levi
“Lucania ’61” by Carlo Levi, image from Il Telero di Carlo Levi da Torino un viaggio nella Questione Meridionale, Ed . Il Rinnovamento, 2015.

This artwork represents the life of the poet Rocco Scotellaro in three fundamental moments: in the center, adolescent Scotellaro; on the right, adult Scotellaro in Piazza Tricarico; on the left, Scotellaro lies deceased in a cave, surrounded by people afflicted by his loss. Scenes are inspired by Lucanian everyday life, some taken by Mario Carbone’s photos.
Here is one of the photos taken by Mario Carbone and the corresponding scene painted by Carlo Levi in “Lucania ‘61”:

Photo taken by Mario Carbone   Character painted by Carlo Levi

Here are the followed steps:
1) Starting from an image of the original canvas, using a software for the elaboration of digital images, the contours of people, objects and landscapes have been extracted, applying a segmentation technique - DOG (Difference Of Gaussian) - that allows to highlight details of different sizes. So a specific layer has been created (Contours).

Contours Lucania '61 by Carlo Levi

Contours right part Lucania '61 by Carlo Levi
The right part contours (different colours are associated to different levels)

2) The following phase has been the identification of characters/segments to be highlighted, filling their contour in green color (bucket tool of the image processing software); the remaining part has been left white, at a lowest level (Characters in relief).

Characters in relief Lucania '61 by Carlo Levi

3) The relevant characters/segments have been labeled using Braille letters, in order to allow blind people to find a correspondence between an associated key-legend and the touched contour. The labels have been designed to be as intuitive as possible: each group of characters (politicians, men, women, children, animals, etc.) are identified with a group of Braille letters which generally have a common structural motif (Braille insertion).

Relieves with Braille left part Lucania '61 by Carlo Levi
The left part (characters in relief - in green - and Braille letters)

4) After this step, the levels that will be differentiated in the printing phase have been created, so allowing haptic perception of what is depicted in the canvas:
  • Level 0: background;
  • Level 1: contours of empty characters and their Braille letters;
  • Level 2: full characters and their Braille letters (Characters in relief with Braille);
  • Level 3: contours of full characters.

5) A software for 3D modeling has been used to realize the structure for 3D printing.

6) The last step is to refine the 3D model for the specific 3D printer that will be used to produce the tactile version of the canvas.