We’ve just returned from a little museum round trip including the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam, the Tate Britain, the Museo Reina Sofia, the Uffizi Gallery in Florence and 13 other of the world’s most famous art galleries. We only stopped to look at one work per gallery, as we only had two hours time for the entire trip. With 17 art galleries presented on one website we didn’t think we’d need more time. We didn’t know that viewing the digital reproduction of a painting in 7 billion pixels can easily take a lifetime.
They say a reproduction of a work can never capture its aura, no matter how good it is. But as the reproductions provided by Google art project prove, the eye of the digital camera doesn’t only see more than the human eye, it also augments the painting’s impact to such an extent that we lose all feeling of time and other dimensions at the sight of it. Zooming in, we expand into a maze of hues and strokes and crackle, and the more detail is revealed, the greater our distress at not being able to discover the painting’s secret.
Pictured above: detail of The Merchant Georg Gisze, by Hans Holbein the Younger, 1532. ©Google art project/Gemäldegalerie Berlin.