See Rembrandt’s Night Watch in minute detail: 717 billion pixels to be precise

The Dutch are forerunners once again. This time, they created no less than the largest and most detailed photo ever taken of artwork by melting technology and art.

Senior scientist at the Rijksmuseum, Rob Erdmann, tells that the photo of Rembrandt’s largest painting operates as a “virtual, always available microscope” for other scientists and the public to use — pretty cool, huh?

Published just this morning, the ultra-high-resolution photo is now available on the Rijksmuseum’s website. 😱

A whole landscape of paint and brushstrokes

The image you’ll see on the museum’s website is, in fact, not one photo.

Rather, it’s a series of no less than 8,439 individual photos measuring 5.5 x 4.1 centimetres each. Every photo was meticulously taken at an exact distance of 13 centimetres from the priceless painting and subsequently “stitched together” using artificial intelligence.

According to Erdmann, who wrote the software himself, the technology provides “a scientific rendering of a material object that shows how well Rembrandt could manipulate paint.”

He elaborates: “We can see every particle of pigment and every brushstroke. We can see paint that Rembrandt didn’t mix perfectly on his palette. We can look into a crack and see the layers of paint in it. It’s like trekking in the Grand Canyon and seeing the geological layers.”

Operation Night Watch

The ultra-high-resolution photo was taken as part of the Rijksmusem’s ‘Operation Night Watch‘ — a several years long research and conservation project that continues in 2022.

READ MORE | Rembrandt masterpiece reconstructed and expanded with AI: see it like never before

However, the 5.6 terabyte photo wasn’t just casually taken. It took two years and eight months to make the whole thing. 🤯 Breaking it up, it took two years to prepare the technology, two months to capture the original painting, and six months to combine the individual photos.

No wonder museums like the Met in New York and the National Gallery in London have already showed interest in the Rijksmuseum’s work.

Have you already viewed the new photo of Rembrand’s masterpiece? What do you think? Tell us in the comments below!

Feature Image: Rijksmuseum/Press Release

Christine Stein Hededam 🇩🇰
Christine Stein Hededam 🇩🇰
A Dane with a special place in her heart for Minnesota, Christine is now falling in love with everything Dutch. Between finishing her bachelor’s degree, learning Dutch, and doing yoga teacher training, you will find her wandering about the Hague. Always up for visiting new places, she loves to explore the Netherlands with friends and takes pride in scoping out cute cafés (wherein to discuss books, big plans, and food).


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