Ultra high resolution photos of famous paintings


HAL9000 from Italy has been posting ultra high resolution photos of famous paintings. In 2007 they posted a 16 billion pixel photo of Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper. They've since increased the pixel count of the photos.

Their more recent image of Botticelli’s La Primivera consists of 28 billion pixels, about 3,000 times the resolution of a consumer digital camera. The pixel density (pixels per inch, or ppi) has also increased, from 580 to 1,500ppi (magazine and book printing are typically 300ppi).

In contrast to the “gallery view” afforded by the online Monet exhibit (in which you can see individual brushstrokes wonderfully), these images are more like a “conservator’s view”, allowing you to zoom in to a level as if observed under a magnifying lens.

You need to be patient with the image as it loads, but once loaded, the interface is remarkably responsive as you zoom. The images are watermarked, but that’s a small quibble considering what they are offering, and you can work around the watermarks by altering the magnification level and scrolling a bit.

Ultra high resolution photos of famous paintings


  1. This is impressive technology. . .and such a beautiful painting. But the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, no?

  2. Amazing.

    Now I can finally find all the proof I need for my conspiracy theories about ancient world orders without ever even leaving my desk.

    Hooray for confirmation bias.

  3. It’s amazingly addictive to regard to most minute of brush strokes and paint applications of the masters.

    Even with these macroscopic enlargements, their techniques are still mysterious.

    Thanks for the post.

  4. Love this, but is there any way to get the full images without the flash interface? I’d kill to be able to make some HD wallpapers out of these.

    1. That’s probably part of why it’s flash… i’m sure the museums are hesitant to giving up the rights :)

      1. *Do* they have the rights, though? IANAL, but I thought most museums were tax-supported, which means that *we* own them.

        And besides, these pictures are *centuries* old for crying out loud. There’s got to be some sort of statute of limitations here. Certainly 100+ year-old books, etc, are widely considered public domain — why not art?

  5. I go to the museums mainly to learn…

    I’m the guy who’s leaning in as close as possible without actually kissing the canvas and getting beat down by the security guards. However, I do hold my breath.

    Sure would like to see this applied to some more modern canvases, like say…Leon Kroll, Isaac Israels, Edouard Vysekal, or Clarence Hinkle (a few of my favorites).

  6. “magazine and book printing are typically 300ppi”

    Oh, the ravages of the digital age!

    Mark, as I’m sure you know, magazines and books do not have pixels: they have dots!

    1. You should see the AIC museum on their free admission nights. It’s as crowded as Union Station at rush hour.

  7. My first thought was: wow, I’m gonna rip that, print it way big and have a great poster for my apartment. Alas, the watermark militia had planned otherwise. Why is it that the paintings hailed in all quarters as the masterpieces, yes even common human cultural heritage masterpieces, still after hundreds of years aren’t available as public domain high res download for printing in whatever size you want whenever you want?

  8. what I find interesting about this is that I saw this painting in person a few years ago and was shocked at how absolutely filthy it is. I’m not talking about expected aging–it’s literally coveredn in black grime . It makes me wonder how much of what you’re seeing here is real.

  9. That’s been egg tempera-ed. I can tell by the brush strokes.

    If you zoom in all the way you can see the craqueleur!

    I’d also love to see van Eyck and other Northern European artists from the 15th and 16th centuries put online the same way or Carl V’s Los Honores tapestries from the Escorial.

  10. This is incredibly cool! Not just for the gorgeous classic images themselves, but also for the treat of them actually being high-resolution. Far too often on the web, we see 72ppi images being touted as being “high resolution” simply because they are huge images. It’s really cool to be able to browse actual high-rez images like these.

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