CODART, Dutch and Flemish art in museums worldwide

Museo del Prado shows 14 masterpieces online in extremely high resolution

From news sources in the United Kingdom and the Netherlands

Yesterday, the Prado announced that it has made an agreement with internet company Google to offer some of its masterpieces online using Google Maps technology. This makes it possible for any internet user to look at the paintings on an extremely detailed level. Brushstrokes that in museums can only be seen risking a rebuke by a guard are now safely available on your computer monitor.

The resolution of the images, 14,000 megapixels, makes details visible which “the human eye alone is unable to see,” according to the museum. The images are compiled using 8,000 high-resolution photos taken over the course of six months. The 14 masterpieces include Dutch and Flemish works: Rembrandt’s Artemisia, Hieronymus Bosch’s Garden of earthly delights, Rubens’s Three graces and Rogier van der Weyden’s Deposition.

While acknowledging that the gigapixel images can serve as a tool to check the quality of past restoration work, the museum emphasizes: “This shows you the body of the painting in almost scientific detail, but what you won’t find here is the soul." This implies that visiting the museum remains necessary to fully grasp the paintings.

Google has no plans as of yet to extend the project beyond these 14 masterpieces or to other museums.

If you do not have Google Earth (which is free software) you will first have to download and install the program in order to view these masterpieces. After enabling the 3D option, navigate to Madrid and click on the button marked "Museo Nacional del Prado."

"With this high level resolution," the museum says on its website, "you are able to see fine details such as the tiny bee on a flower in The Three Graces by Rubens, delicate tears on the faces of the figures in The Descent from the Cross by Roger van der Weyden and complex figures in The Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymus Bosch."

Watch the video on the project from the Prado website