Monday, October 4, 2010

Haltadefinizione, high resolution art images

Botticelli's Birth of Venus, high resolution image from Haltadefinizione
In my recent post on Monet at the Grand Palais, I was praising the online gallery in which a large number of Monet’s works have been made viewable on the web in relatively high resolution images.

I say “relatively” because Haltadefinizione, or “HAL9000″ (English version here), an Italian project specializing in high-definition photography, has made available on the web several great masterpieces in what can be considered extreme high resolution.

I wrote in 2007 about their high resolution online image of Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper. That image consisted of 16 billion pixels, at the time reaching the limits of the technology.

Their more recent image of Botticelli’s La Primivera consists of 28 billion pixels, about 3,000 times the resolution of a consumer digital camera. The pixel density (pixels per inch, or ppi) has also increased, from 580 to 1,500ppi (magazine and book printing are typically 300ppi).

In contrast to the “gallery view” afforded by the online Monet exhibit (in which you can see individual brushstrokes wonderfully), these images are more like a “conservator’s view”, allowing you to zoom in to a level as if observed under a magnifying lens.

You need to be patient with the image as it loads, but once loaded, the interface is remarkably responsive as you zoom. The images are watermarked, but that’s a small quibble considering what they are offering, and you can work around the watermarks by altering the magnification level and scrolling a bit.

In addition to several works already imaged, they are working in cooperation with the famed Uffizi Gallery in Florence to digitize 24 of the great museum’s works.

So far, there are ten works viewable on the site:
Da Vinci’s Last Supper
Da Vinci’s Annunciation
Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus
Verrocchio & Leonardo’s The Baptism of Christ
Gaudenzio Ferrari’s Life Stories of Christ
Pontormo’s Deposition
Agnolo Bronzino’s Elanor of Toledo
Francesco Paolo Michetti’s The Daughter of Iorio
Caravaggio’s Bacchus

In addition Botticelli’s La Primavera is available on the la Repubblica site.

All are remarkable in their own way. The experience of putting your nose up to these works is amazing.

I had the pleasure of spending the better part of an hour with Botticelli’s La Primavera and Birth of Venus (image above) when I was in Florence a few years ago.

I won’t say that the digital image is a substitute for seeing great works like this in person, it’s a different experience with its own plusses and minuses (I couldn’t put my nose up to the canvas), but if you can’t get to the Uffizi, it may well be the next best thing.

[Via Underwire]

[Addendum: (2013) This has largely been superseded by the Google Art Project, for which no account is necessary to view all the high definition images, and within which the images are not annoyingly watermarked.

Here is the Uffizi Gallery’s selections on the Google Art Project, including The Birth of Venus and La Primavera.

See my posts on the Google Art Project.]

9 thoughts on “Haltadefinizione, high resolution art images

  1. jj

    It’s nice to see these in high resolution but I think it’s extremely disrespectful to the artist to smear your logo watermark all over the image ever 100 pixels like its YOUR painting.

    It’s not yours.

  2. Nancy Ewart

    It’s a great idea but needs some work. To start with, they need a faster connection to the website; I’ve got a fast connection and I found the web page excruciatingly slow. I also didn’t care for the company plastering their logo and other bits of information all over the images. I guess they are looking to somehow make money but they’ve lost me as a customer. However, you do a sterling job in keeping us in touch with all these fantastic websites. Thank you for all your hard work.

  3. IDELLE WEBER

    IT’S BEEN DIFFICULT TO GET TO THIS SITE. IT IS CLEARLY THE MOST WONDERFUL SITE ON THE INTERNET. THERE IS NOTHING LIKE IT. GOOGLE DOESN’T STAND A CHANCE.

    NOW I CAN REALLY SEE THE DETAILS ON EVERY PART OF THE IMAGE. WOULD THAT I HAD THIS AS A CHILD. I ALWAY BROUGHT MY MAGNIFYING GLASS TO MUSEUMS TO SEE EVERYTHING CLOSER. MAGNIFICATION OF DETAILS HAD MUCH TO DO WITH MY ART EDUCATION.

    AGAIN, THANK YOU.

    NOW HOW ABOUT “LAS MENINAS”?

  4. Elena

    I agree with the watermark: it’s tedious.

    The website has also published The Kiss by Hayez and other works of Romanticism.

  5. Jeff Hayes

    I agree that the watermarks render these images nearly useless. Fortunately a number of museums are now making available ultra-hi-res images without the digital vandalism. The Google Art Project is a good place to start, and it also shows what’s possible.

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