The Prado Museum Creates the First Art Exhibition for the Visually Impaired, Using 3D Printing


Image cour­tesy of The Pra­do

Are you one of the mil­lions of sight­ed vis­i­tors who’ll vis­it a world class insti­tu­tion this year only to find your­self suf­fer­ing from muse­um fatigue a cou­ple of hours in? You know, that moment when all the paint­ings start to look alike, still lifes, cru­ci­fix­ions, and teenage noble­women swim­ming before your eyes?

If so, may we rec­om­mend clos­ing your eyes and lim­it­ing your­self to an in-depth study of a half dozen paint­ings? That’s the num­ber of works on dis­play in Hoy toca el Pra­do, Madrid’s Museo del Pra­do’s land­mark exhi­bi­tion aimed at peo­ple with visu­al dis­abil­i­ties.

The Lou­vre, New York’s Met­ro­pol­i­tan Muse­um of Art, and London’s Nation­al Gallery all have touch-friend­ly pro­gram­ming that allows blind vis­i­tors to expe­ri­ence sculp­tur­al works with their hands. The Prado’s ini­tia­tive is unique in that it applies 3D print­ing tech­niques to repro­duc­tions of painted—i.e. flat—work.

Cer­tain aspects of each paint­ing, includ­ing tex­tures, were select­ed for show­cas­ing in the 3D repro­duc­tions. A chem­i­cal process involv­ing ultra­vi­o­let light and spe­cial ink result­ed in a few mil­lime­ters of added vol­ume. The repro­duc­tions retained the orig­i­nals’ col­or, for visu­al­ly impaired vis­i­tors with the abil­i­ty to per­ceive it.


Image cour­tesy of The Pra­do

Sight­ed patrons can try their hands at expe­ri­enc­ing such works as The Para­sol by Goya and Velazquez’s Vul­can’s Forge in a non-visu­al way by don­ning opaque glass­es. Texts are in braille. Audio­gu­ides are acces­si­ble to all.

Accord­ing to the original’s record in the museum’s cat­a­log, El Gre­co’s The Noble­man with His Hand on His Chest is notable for the “expres­sive gaze its sit­ter directs at the view­er.” The exhibit’s cura­tor report­ed that one of the first blind vis­i­tors to come through want­ed to know the subject’s eye col­or. He found that he could not con­fi­dent­ly respond with­out dou­ble check­ing.


Image cour­tesy of ABC News

Oth­er paint­ings in the col­lec­tion include: Leonar­do da Vin­ci’s  “Mona Lisa;” “Don’t touch me” (Noli me tan­gere) by Anto­nio da Cor­reg­gio; and “Still life with Arti­chokes, Flow­ers and Glass Ves­sels” by Juan Van Der Hamen. See an online gallery of the exhib­it, which will be up through June, here.

via The New York Times

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Art Lovers Rejoice! New Goya and Rem­brandt Data­bas­es Now Online

100 Met­ro­pol­i­tan Muse­um Cura­tors Talk About 100 Works of Art That Changed How They See the World

The Met­ro­pol­i­tan Muse­um of Art Puts 400,000 High-Res Images Online & Makes Them Free to Use

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday

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Comments (3)
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  • Bill W. says:

    Wait until they hit the bulge of the cod­pieces…

  • Derique Ess. says:

    You must be a small child, or think like one, Bil­ly. Per­haps some adult with the pow­er will purge this puerile graf­fi­ti from this page. Bil­ly: go to your room this instant. No din­ner. Wait until the Gor­gon gets home. Don’t give me that look! You’re gonna get it now, buster!

  • Surelis D says:

    Very inter­est­ing arti­cle. I will be cite it for an arts and cul­ture paper for one of my class­es. It’s amaz­ing how impor­tant this is. Thanks for the info !

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