An Italian company by the name of Haltadefinizione is revolutionizing public access to the works of the great masters. With just a few clicks of your mouse, you can experience works like Caravaggio’s “Bacchus” and Botticelli’s “The Birth of Venus” as though your nose were only millimeters from the centuries-old canvas.
“If you can’t come to them, they’ll come to you,” boasts a banner on Haltadefinizione’s homepage. And the site is true to its word, giving visitors an up-close view of the paintings that even an actual visit to the museum wouldn’t allow.
The site features photographs of six masterpieces of the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, including works by Bronzino, Botticelli, Verrocchio, Leonardo and Caravaggio. But these aren’t your average photographs—the camera used has a resolution up to 3,000 times greater than the average digital camera. Not impressed yet? The resulting images have a resolution of up to 28 billion pixels and can show details up to a hundredth of a millimeter.
So what does this mean for visitors to the site? For one, it means seeing the tiny outline of a self-portrait in the reflection of the wine jug of Caravaggio’s “Bacchus.” It means that a few clicks of the mouse can bring you close enough to Leonardo’s “Annunciation” to see the individual golden brushstrokes of the virgin’s hair, the tiny ships in the distant landscape, the cracks in the 500-year-old paint.
The image is created by taking hundreds of pictures of tiny portions of the painting, then compiling them and reforming them into a complete image of the work. The result is, as Culture Ministry official Mario Resca puts it, like looking at a painting “with a giant magnifying glass.” The technology uses a minimal amount of light and does not utilize infrared in the interest of preservation.
Haltadefinizione plans to digitize more artworks, with the eventual goal of opening a virtual museum. However, for the time being, these six Italian masterpieces remain accessible to the public for free until January 29.