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‘Girl with a Pearl Earring’ portrait transformed into massive 10 billion pixel panorama: Digital Photography Review

Iconic painting ‘Girl with a Pearl Earring’ by Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer has been transformed into a massive 10 billion pixel panorama, enabling viewers to see the masterpiece in unprecedented detail. The scanning process was recently showcased in a new video from Hirox.

The panorama was made possible using the Hirox 3D Digital Microscope RH-2000, which features a CMOS sensor capable of capturing up to 50 frames per second at 1920 x 1200 resolution. The microscope connects to a computer over USB 3 and includes notable features like auto- and multi-focus, HDR and multiple lens options for different projects.

Using this technology, Hirox Europe’s Vincent Sabatier and Emilien Leonhardt scanned the full painting and transformed it into a panorama with a resolution greater than 10,000MP. One pixel in the new panorama is equal to 4.4 microns, according to Leonhardt, who went on to explain:

The goal of the inspection was to learn more about Vermeer’s painting technique, to evaluate the surface condition, measure cracks and topography of various key areas, while assessing past restorations.

The Hirox system captured 9,100 multifocal 3D images, which were then stitched to produce the full panorama. Ten ‘key’ areas of the painting were imaged at a super high resolution where each pixel is equal to 1.1 microns, enabling viewers to see individual dots of pigment in the painting medium.

The super high resolution scans were also used to generate 3D models of the key portrait regions, enabling experts to view the painting’s surface and topography, including the height of elements, with a high degree of precision.

A companion website was created that provides the public with access to the full painting and the ability to zoom into different parts of the portrait. A few areas, such as the eyes and mouth, are available as shortcuts that take the viewer directly to those parts of the painting, including the key areas featuring the 1.1-micron resolution.

The website also provides 3D models generated from the scans, enabling viewers to visualize the topography in these 10 regions, as well as the cracks and tiny bits of dust. The 3D viewer includes a virtual light that can be moved around to cast shadows in different areas, color maps that make it easy to visualize the height differences between features and an auto-rotate function that slowly turns the models.

‘It is as if you have the painting in your hands,’ Leonhardt says. The tool provides an unprecedented look at the painting that exceeds what you would be able to perceive with the naked eye, one that would otherwise only be possible by looking at the artwork under a microscope.

‘Girl with a Pearl Earring’ is currently located at the Mauritshuis art museum in the Netherlands.

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