14 masterpieces from the Museo del Prado in mega-high resolution on Google Earth

With the launch of a new project by Google, the Museo del Prado becomes the first museum in the world to offer high-resolution images of its masterpieces for access and navigation on the Internet. These images will reveal details invisible to the naked eye of paintings such as Las Meninas and The Three Graces.

Tuesday 13 January 2009

The Museo del Prado and Google are today presenting the project “Masterpieces from the Prado on Google Earth”, which will allow users to see details invisible to the naked eye of 14 of the Museum’s masterpieces. Las Meninas, Gentleman with his Hand on his Breast and The Three Graces are among the paintings that have been photographed and which can now be seen on Google Earth by activating the buildings layer in 3d and clicking on Prado. Google Earth is at http://earth.google.es/

Thanks to this joint initiative between Google and the Museo del Prado, masterpieces from this Spanish Museum’s collection will be the first to be available for study and appreciation from every corner of the globe through their presence as giga-pixel images. Through its involvement with this project the Prado aims to be a pioneer in the possibilities offered by the new technologies for the dissemination and promotion of the artistic heritage. These spectacular images of its works, which are only available on Google Earth, will allow scholars and art lovers to appreciate from close up the most minute details and motifs represented, the lines and brushstrokes of each artist, the under-drawing, craquelure of the varnish and many other aspects difficult to see at first hand.

Google Earth’s unique technology makes it possible to navigate these images, whose approximately 14,000 mega-pixels offer a precision 1,400 times greater than that of a 10 mega-pixel digital camera. In addition, the Prado layer within Google Earth includes a spectacular 3d reproduction of the Museum’s building.

The process of obtaining the images began in May and lasted around 3 months. During this time the works were photographed using special equipment, taking all necessary precautions to ensure that the canvases were not damaged. Once the images were obtained (more than 8,200 photographs were taken), Google Earth technology was used to achieve the zoom-in effect. In this way the paintings constitute one more layer within the programme, comparable to its images of streets or houses.

Miguel Zugaza, the Prado’s Director, expressed his satisfaction with this new initiative: “There is no better way to pay tribute to the great masters of Art History than to universalize knowledge of their works using optimum conditions, and there is no doubt that this project of Google Earth allows us to progress towards this goal in a particularly significant manner.”

Javier Rodríguez Zapatero, General Manager of Google Earth, notes that, “With Google Earth technology it is possible to enjoy these magnificent works in a way never previously possible, obtaining details impossible to appreciate through first-hand observation […] This has involved months of intensive work in order to obtain this truly impressive result.”

“In addition, this project is a continuation of our endeavours to democratise access to information and culture, in this case bringing Art to the entire world, regardless of location.”

“For all of us it has been a great pleasure to work so closely with the greatest picture gallery in Europe and one of the leading institutions of its kind in the world in order to make paintings such as these available to all. The almost microscopic level of detail of the images allows the user to study the various techniques used by the artists, which is not possible with the naked eye alone. The result is a better appreciation and understanding of the work,” notes Laurence Fontinoy, Director of Marketing at Google.

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