Ok, this is incredibly cool. The Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities has partnered with the firm HAL9000 (wasn’t that the computer in "2001"?) to provide on the interwebs a ridiculously high resolution image of Da Vinci’s "Last Supper." For incredibly fragile and faded works of art like this, providing high-resolution images online is about the only way most of the general public will get to enjoy the work close-up. And if for some reason the work were ever lost, we would at least have some record of its existence for future generations to study and enjoy. Nothing compares to the real thing, of course, but so much more accessible.
There’s a neat video that explains the complicated digital photography process, as well as other high-res images of other works of art, including the Tramezzo of Santa Maria delle Grazie’ s Church, the Gloria di Sant’Ignazio, and the Cupola of St Gaudenzio’s Basilica in Novara, Italy.
The full press release is after the jump…
Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities
Superintendency for Architectural and Natural Heritages of Milan
THE LAST SUPPER IN DETAIL
From 27 October, Da Vinci’s Last Supper can be admired on the web at a definition of 16 billion pixels
Milan, 27 October 2007 – Today, for the very first time, The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci, the most famous, most discussed and most controversial work of art of all time, declared a World Heritage work of art and registered at the UNESCO worldwide sites, can be seen by all, in all its details, on the website: www.haltadefinizione.com.
The online visualisation system of the highest definition photograph ever in the world (16 billion pixels) will in fact let viewers enlarge and observe any portion of the painting, giving them a clear view of sections down to as little as one millimetre square.
The project started at the beginning of 2007, as a result of the meeting between the Ministry of Cultural Assets and Activities – Milan Landscape and Architectural Assets Office, De Agostini and HAL9000, a worldwide leader in the high-definition photography sector. This photographic technique has two benefits: on one hand, it is a unique instrument of its kind for “monitoring” the state of the painting and, on the other hand, it allows anyone on the Internet, from any part of the world, to observe all the parts and details of the work. Thanks to this technology, HAL9000 can also create large high-quality fine art prints of The Last Supper which offer an overall and detailed visual perception never possible before.
The photograph of The Last Supper, one of the most delicate and protected works in the world, is the result of many months of work and research, during which specific lighting and photography techniques were developed. The protection of the painting was, right from the start, the main concern of the HAL9000 technicians and the Architectural Assets Office; the photography system designed and implemented by HAL9000 was subject to technical inspection at the Environmental Control and Physics Laboratory at the Central Restoration Institute in Rome, which decided the system was totally suitable in accordance with current standards for the safeguarding of artistic works.
This first and unique, official photographic record of The Last Supper is presented today, in the ‘Bramante’ Sacristy in the Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan. The presentation involves talks by Arch. Alberto Artioli, Supervisor of the Milan Landscape and Architectural Assets Office, Prof. Pietro Marani, President of the Da Vinci Research Institute and Professor of Modern Art History at the Polytechnic of Milan, as well as HAL9000, the company which took the photographs of the work. The Minister of Cultural Heritage and Activities, Francesco Rutelli, is attending the press conference.
The project was made possible thanks to the assistance of various partners: AMD, an American multinational which provided the high-tech processing technology; Clauss, a German company which provided the high-precision orientation structure, De Agostini, who provided web and communication support; I-Net, who provided high-speed Internet access, and Nikon, for high-tech state-of-the-art photographic equipment.
De Agostini S.p.A. External Relations Department
Elena Dalle Rive, ph. +39 02 38086421 mobile +39 335 7835912
Paola Claudia Scioli, ph. +39 02 38086373, mobile +39 335 5725029