The feet of Jesus in Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper have been revealed in gigapixel detail in a Google project that aims to bring some of the collection of Royal Academy of Arts online amid the coronavirus lockdown.
The London-based academy is the latest to join the Google Arts & Culture platform, where high-res image technology lets people view artworks and artefacts from participating institutions across the globe.
Among the works digitised in super-high-resolution by Google’s Art Camera team is Giampietrino and Giovanni Antonio Boltfraffio’s oil-on-canvas copy of ‘The Last Supper’.
While the mural by their master, da Vinci — which resides in the Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan — has lost details through deterioration and damage, such remain in the copy and are now more accessible digitally.
For example, one can see clearly both the detail of doubting Thomas’ raised finger — foreshadowing his incredulity over the Resurrection — and the salt spilt by Judas in a nod to his impending betrayal.
One may also view the feet of Jesus beneath the table — a detail lost from the original mural when a door was cut through the refectory wall on which it was painted back in the year 1652.
‘The Royal Academy is famed for being experimental, welcoming and a thoroughly modern institution for art lovers everywhere,’ said Google Arts & Culture head Luisella Mazza.
‘Although we are unable to visit in person, we can still experience it from anywhere in the world,’ she added.
‘By bringing their stories online, Google Arts & Culture will allow users to go behind the scenes and explore the range of activities that go on at this innovative and extraordinary institution.’
The online exhibition features over 230 curated photographs and videos, including 24 pieces of art that have been digitised in super-high definition with Google’s so-called ‘Art Camera’ system that can pick out even the finest of details.
Among the works highlighted are John Constable’s 1825 romantic oil painting ‘The Leaping Horse’, Royal Academy founder Mary Moser’s ‘Spring’ and one of former academy president Joshua Reynolds’ self portraits.
Through Google’s Street View system, the public will be able to virtually visit 17 different locations within the Royal Academy — including the Collection Gallery, Library and the Lecture Theatre — and enjoy eight different Street View tours.
These include ‘Step inside Burlington House’ and ‘Hidden Rooms at the RA’.
Meanwhile thirty digital stories provide insights into the academy’s rich history — including such lesser-known tales as the feud between Constable and fellow romantic Joseph Mallord William Turner.
Using the Google Arts & Culture app, one can even bring the Royal Academy’s collection into one’s own home via the ‘Art Projector’ feature.
‘Especially in times of crisis, art galleries and museums should be places of community that provide inspiration, escape, solace, fun and consolation,’ said Royal Academy Secretary and Chief Executive Axel Rüger.
‘The Royal Academy of Arts has existed to do that since 1768.’
‘At a time when our doors are sadly closed, we are delighted to continue that cultural exchange online, through Google Arts & Culture.’
The digital exhibition can be explore on the Google Arts & Culture website.