A 10 Billion Pixel Scan of Vermeer’s Masterpiece Girl with a Pearl Earring: Explore It Online

We admire Johannes Ver­meer’s Girl with a Pearl Ear­ring for many rea­sons, not least that it looks exact­ly like a girl with a pearl ear­ring. Or at least it does from a dis­tance, as the mas­ter of light him­self no doubt stepped back to con­firm count­less times dur­ing the paint­ing process, at any moment of which he would have been more con­cerned with the brush­strokes con­sti­tut­ing only a small part of the image. But even Ver­meer him­self could have per­ceived only so much detail of the paint­ing that would become his mas­ter­piece.

Now, more than 350 years after its com­ple­tion, we can get a clos­er view of Girl with a Pearl Ear­ring than any­one has before through a new­ly released 10 bil­lion-pix­el panora­ma. At this res­o­lu­tion, writes Petapix­el’s Jason Schnei­der, we can “see the paint­ing down to the lev­el of 4.4‑microns per pix­el.”

Under­tak­en by Emi­lien Leon­hardt and Vin­cent Sabati­er of 3D micro­scope mak­er Hirox Europe “in order to eval­u­ate the sur­face con­di­tion of the paint­ing, mea­sure cracks, and see the topog­ra­phy of var­i­ous key areas while assess­ing past restora­tions,” the project required tak­ing 9,100 pho­tos, which “were auto­mat­i­cal­ly cap­tured and stitched togeth­er to form one fin­ished panora­ma image where one pix­el equals 4.4 microns.”

You’ll under­stand what this means if you view the panora­ma and click the plus sym­bol on the bot­tom con­trol bar to zoom in — and click it again, and again, and again. (Or just click it and hold it down.) Before long, Girl with a Pearl Ear­ring will look less like a girl with a pearl ear­ring than what she real­ly is: cen­turies-old oil paints on a cen­turies-old can­vas. The phys­i­cal­i­ty of this work of art, one so often held up as the real­iza­tion of aes­thet­ic ide­al, becomes even less ignor­able if you click the “3D” but­ton. This presents ten indi­vid­ual sec­tions of the paint­ing scanned in three dimen­sions, which you can freely rotate and even light from all direc­tions.

The 3D-scanned por­tions include the tit­u­lar pearl ear­ring, which appears to have a bit of a gouge in it. They’re more clear­ly vis­i­ble in 5x topo­graph­i­cal view­ing mode (selec­table on the top con­trol bar). This offi­cial Hirox video offers a glimpse of the pro­ce­dure required to achieve the kind of unprece­dent­ed­ly high-res­o­lu­tion view of Girl with a Pearl Ear­ring that allows us to behold details hereto­fore prac­ti­cal­ly invis­i­ble. At more than 10,000 megapix­els, the back­ground reveals itself to be in fact a dark green cur­tain, and the girl her­self has clear­ly defined eye­lash­es. But as for her long-spec­u­lat­ed-about iden­ti­ty, well, there are some things microscopy can’t deter­mine. Take a close look at Ver­meer’s paint­ing here. And if you’d like to take a sim­i­lar look at Rem­brandt’s The Night Watch, click here.

via Colos­sal

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Why is Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Ear­ring Con­sid­ered a Mas­ter­piece?: An Ani­mat­ed Intro­duc­tion

Mas­ter of Light: A Close Look at the Paint­ings of Johannes Ver­meer Nar­rat­ed by Meryl Streep

Down­load All 36 of Jan Vermeer’s Beau­ti­ful­ly Rare Paint­ings (Most in Bril­liant High Res­o­lu­tion)

The Largest & Most Detailed Pho­to­graph of Rembrandt’s The Night Watch Is Now Online: Zoom In & See Every Brush Stroke

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­terBooks on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall, on Face­book, or on Insta­gram.

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