- Google worked with the Royal Academy of Arts in London to digitally remaster the closest known replica of The Last Supper.
- One of Leonardo da Vinci's understudies created this replica, meaning it's probably the most responsible proxy for study.
- New details have emerged through this work, including a spilled salt dish, Judas's coin purse, and even the shoes on Jesus's feet. Explore the full work here.
Leonardo da Vinci's The Last Supper is one of the most iconic works of art known to humankind. But since the late 15th century, the painting has also been slowly deteriorating at its home in the Santa Maria delle Grazie monastery in Milan, Italy. That means detailed analysis of the composition is more or less futile.
So engineers at Google Arts & Culture have constructed an exceptionally detailed digital copy, turning to the closest known reproduction to extrapolate the most minute details from Leonardo's original, including spilled salt shakers, Judas's coin purse, and even Jesus's feet.
Giampietrino, another Italian painter (and Leonardo's own understudy), encapsulated this final feast among Jesus and his 12 Apostles in his own replica around the same time period in which Leonardo produced his piece. While Giampietrino's 26-foot-wide version of The Last Supper isn't a perfect facsimile for the genuine work, it's an appropriate proxy.
Because Giampietrino used oil paint on canvas, as opposed to Leonardo's tempera and oil paint on a dry wall, the proxy has withstood the test of time much better than the original work. The original has flaked and decayed in the more than 500 years since its inception, creating arduous work for art historians who would like to study the masterpiece's finer details.
Now, Google and the Royal Academy of Arts in London (where Giampietrino's interpretation is housed) have generated the high-definition digital replica with a relatively new technology called Art Camera. Back in 2016, engineers at Google Arts & Culture introduced the camera to take "ultra-high resolution 'gigapixel' images" to preserve works of art in cyberspace.
"A gigapixel image is made of over one billion pixels, and can bring out details invisible to the naked eye," Ben St. John, an engineer for Google Arts & Culture said in a blog post at the time. "So creating digital images in such high resolution is a complex technical challenge."
Google's Art Camera uses a robotic system to painstakingly steer the apparatus from detail to detail, capturing hundreds of high resolution closeups of each painting. Laser and sonar sensors additionally use high frequency sound to measure the distance between details in a piece of artwork. Once the camera has collected those puzzle pieces, Google software stitches them together into one fine-tuned image.
This is why you can explore Giampietrino's The Last Supper like never before—a modest glimpse of those great sandals that Jesus is wearing, and the ominous symbolism of Judas's coin purse.
You Might Also Like