Artworks from the Royal Museums of Fine Arts (Brussels) can now be explored at brushstroke level detail, thanks to the participation of the museum in the Google Art Project. The selected works span the fifteenth to the eighteenth centuries, and include paintings by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Jacob Jordaens, Rogier van der Weyden, Gustaf Wappers, Alfred Stevens, Jacques-Louis David and Fernand Khnopff.
The Google Art Project, which was launched in February 2011, offers virtual tours of seventeen of the world's major museums, including the New York's Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Gallery in London, the Reina Sofia in Madrid, and the Hermitage in St Petersburg. Each of the partner museums selected a number of key works from its collections, which were then digitised at a very high resolution. A user-friendly interface allows visitors to zoom in on details that are often invisible to the naked eye.
The second phase of the Google Art Project began in April 2012. The goal is to significantly expand the number of participating museums and the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium have been invited to take part. Very high-resolution reproductions were created under the aegis of the Heritage Digitisation Project of the Etablissements scientifiques fédéraux (ESF), with financing from the Belgian Science Policy Office. They are available to the public on the Google Art Project site.
Two of the Royal Museums´ most emblematic works, 'Marat Assassinated' by Jacques-Louis David (inv. 3260), and 'The Numbering at Bethlehem' (inv. 3637) by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, were given special treatment. The digitisation process included the use of a multispectral camera developed by Lumière Technology in Paris. This technology – which has also been used for other masterpieces, including Leonardo da Vinci's 'Mona Lisa' and 'Lady with an Ermine' – reveals data that is invisible in the infrared and ultraviolet spectra. In addition to providing useful information for understanding artworks, the images produced by the multispectral camera are of such high definition that they allow users to examine barely visible details.
A second work by Bruegel, 'The Fall of the Rebel Angels', also received special treatment – the same that was given to Rembrandt's 'The Night Watch' (Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam) in the first phase of the Google Art Project. The digital image of this work is comprised of thousands of individual files consisting of nearly a billion pixels. To achieve this, the painting was photographed at night in order to avoid any light interference or vibrations from passing cars on nearby streets. The extraordinary image that was produced reveals the composition’s subtlest brushstrokes.
Source: Royal Museums of Fine Arts