New Tech Meets Old World: Paintings in Ultra High-Res

It’s every Da Vinci Code conspiracy theorist’s dream: getting a microscopic look at Leonardo’s brushstrokes on The Last Supper down to the tiniest flake of paint. In the past, you would have to be a highly skilled art preservationist to gain such intimate access to treasured art, but the wonder of high-resolution photography has now brought it to the internet.

The Italian project Haltadefinizione has put 10 of the most iconic images of the Italian Renaissance online in a flash interface that allows you to click and zoom on any part of Botticelli’s Primavera and The Birth of Venus, Leonardo’s Annunciation and The Last Supper, Caravaggio’s Bacchus, Verrochio and Leonardo’s The Baptism of Christ, Gaudenzio Ferrari’s Life Stories of Christ, Pontormo’s Deposition, Agnolo Bronzino’s Elanor of Toledo and Francesco Paolo Michetti’s The Daughter of Iorio.

The images may be watermarked, but for painters and art lovers, they provide an invaluable up-close-and-personal view that could never be reproduced by a print or even a trip to the museum to see the work in person. It’s quite amazing to see not just the intricacies to a long-dead master artist’s ways of applying paint to a canvas, but how the paint has aged over centuries.

The clarity of the images also brings out details that many may not have noticed before, even in a painting they’ve seen hundreds of times. For example, in Leonardo’s Annuncation, it’s now possible to see all the little windows and turrets in a distant city that simply aren’t visible when viewing the painting full-scale.