Over the last hour, I have avoided work by flipping through this incredibly high-resolution scan of Johannes Vermeer’s iconic Girl with pearl earring. With a total resolution of 93,205 x 108,565, PetaPixel notes that the scan is believed to be the first 10 billion pixel panorama ever created, so you can zoom in close enough to turn the smallest paints into puddles and small cracks into cracks. The scan appears to have been posted online early last year.
The Mauritshuis Gallery, which usually houses the work, recently had to close temporarily due to COVID restrictions. But for now, this scan is a nice replacement. In some ways, it̵
The scan is the work of Hirox Emilien Leonhardt and Vincent Sabatier, who photographed the painting using a high-resolution microscope in March 2018. Scanning the painting involved taking around 9,100 pictures of it using a high-resolution microscope before sewing them together. The resulting scan allowed the team to assess the condition, learn more about Vermeer’s painting technique and understand previous restorations of the work. You can learn more about the scanning process in the short video Hirox published below:
The 2D image is one thing, but where things get particularly interesting, it is with 3D scans, which cover 10 specific areas of the painting, such as the subject’s eyes and iconic earrings. These scans allow you to look at parts of the painting from all angles and see that the seemingly flat surface is anything but thanks to the layers of dried paint that make up the painting. There is even a small virtual light you can drag around the program to see how these surface defects cast a shadow over the surroundings.
To learn more about what these scans and other technical research show about this painting, you can check out this blog post from Mauritshuis last year. Meanwhile, the rest of the museum has also been digitized, with 36 masterpieces available for details.