Well, Google has done it again! The Google Art Project is by far the coolest thing I’ve come across so far this year.
By way of the same technology that Google uses to create its 360 degree street view navigation on Google Earth, we are now able to browse the rooms of some of the worlds greatest art galleries! Below is the screen that shows up when we choose the Uffizi Gallery in Florence for instance.
The large background image is a close up sample of one of the museum’s featured works - in this case Botticelli’s “Birth of Venus” from 1486. The navigation on the left enables us to either enter the gallery, explore the featured painting further, or choose another museum all together. Below is the view you will see in one of the rooms of the Uffizi.
Now that’s pretty sweet, but to me the best feature by far is that we can “walk” up to a work of art and zoom right in on it. Depending on your internet connection speed, it may take a few seconds for the full resolution version to render on your monitor, but when the thing is done it’s glorious hi-resolution detail is amazing! “The Birth of Venus” measures 67.9 inches by 109.6 inches so the thing is pretty big. Here is the entire painting.
Now look at the detail of the painting in the Google image below.
This is not even at full zoom either. Not only can we see the actual surface texture and how thinly the paint was applied, but, because Google gives us the opportunity to zoom in so close with such good quality, we can see that Botticelli probably made some revisions to his painting as it developed. He may have either moved the male face (of the west wind blowing Zepher) to the left, or decided to give him less hair as he was composing this portion of the painting.
We guess this because we notice the ghostly shadow along the temple of the female face (the nymph Chloris) which was probably the first pass the artist made at positioning the male head. This darkness is there because when a painting is this old it begins to lose its opacity a bit, especially if it was executed with thin paint to begin with. I hope your monitor allows you to see this in the image above.
Here is another extreme close-up of another part of the painting. We can see what is called the “craquelure”, or pattern of cracks in Venus’ calf.
So this thing that Google has given us is scary good in my opinion. They will be adding more museums in the coming months as well, so we can spend even more time marveling in front of our computers. Click the learn More link and watch the short videos on this great Google Art Project. AMAZING.
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P.S. My sketchbook remains on display this week at the Brooklyn Art Library in NYC!