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October 2, 2010

View high-resolution images of Italian masterpieces like Leonardo Da Vinci online

London:High-resolution images of masterpieces from the Uffizi gallery in Florence, including works by Caravaggio and Leonardo Da Vinci have been put online by an Italian company. By zooming in with the click of a mouse, the smallest details can appear, including ones that are not typically visible when viewing artworks at the distances required by museums for security. Mario Resca, an Italian Culture Ministry official who worked on the project, says the images are like looking at a painting "with a giant magnifying glass," reports the Telegraph. In Caravaggio's 'Bacchus', for example, the trace of a tiny self-portrait that the artist painted in the wine jug becomes detectable, as do the wine bubbles on the rim of the jug. In Leonardo's 'Annunciation' computer users can see the brush strokes in the maritime background and the delicate patterns of the cloth underneath the Bible. The images have a resolution of up to 28 billion pixels, said Vincenzo Mirarchi, CEO of the Haltadefinizione company that digitised the paintings. That's about 3,000 times stronger than the resolution of an average digital camera. The company put Leonardo's 'Last Supper' online three years ago, but the technology has advanced since then. Today, it shows details up to a hundredth of a millimetre. The technology entails taking hundreds of pictures of tiny portions of the artwork and then combining them to recompose the whole image. Lighting is crucial, said Mirarchi. Officials insist the technology poses no danger to the paintings, as it does not employ infrared and uses only a minimum amount of light. The reproductions can allow researchers and art-lovers to study an artwork from afar, but they also represent a historical document of how a painting appears at a given time. The images are staying online, free of charge, until Jan. 29. After that, Haltadefinizione says it might digitise more artworks and eventually create a virtual museum.

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