Turning Back Time with 3D Digital Restoration of Fine Art, by Arius Technology

Turning Back Time with 3D Digital Restoration of Fine Art, by Arius Technology


Well, we knew that the technology was originally developed by NRC (National Research Council) for scanning fine art and they scanned the Mona Lisa. So, from the very beginning of the project we knew it would be used to scan some of humanity’s most precious paintings and artworks. When we zoom in on a brushstroke the detail that we see is really quite amazing. We see features that are a hundred microns apart, and a hundred microns is typically the size of a human hair. When we look at the depth, where we actually measure the height of a painting, we actually get that to 10 microns, so a tenth of a human hair. So, it’s a pretty unprecedented level of detail if we really zoom in on it. An area that’s very intriguing to me is, We’ve had forms of digital restoration, and we’ve had forms where we can in some sense turn back time, and actually begin to compensate for some of the natural degradation processes and minute losses that occur to a lot of paintings. And, that’s going to be an interesting area to explore. So, this painting by (Claude) Monet, is not in perfect condition. And that’s true of just about every painting, that’s got a few years on it. This is more than one hundred years old and, of course, things have happened to it. So, people like me, restorers have changed the nature of the surface and there has been a couple of quite significant, physical accidents that have damaged the surface. And, beyond things happening to it, paint changes on it’s own quite naturally, over time, and it will do it in very different ways depending on the make up of the paint. In this particular instance, there were some discolorations in some of the lighter areas of the paint. Along with some bits of dirt and rubbish that the painting had picked up from some of it’s structural interventions in the past. So we found some really interesting things when we were scanning the painting by Monet. The second one (painting) that we had ever scanned at the National Gallery of Canada And, at first, we got some really puzzling results. There were things we could see in both the color and in the geometry of the painting that didn’t fit with the local paint and pigments in that area, and they stood out as unusual. So, I remember puzzling over it for a little while, and then bringing Stephen (Gritt) in to look at the data and what we were able to figure out is that it was actually some form of degradation, or contamination of the painting. So it’s something that wasn’t there in the original, when it was painted. And we decided, “Why not give it a go?” That we would change some of those degradations, and problems in the digital file. So that when we printed the elevated print, you were getting a view of the painting as it could have looked if those things hadn’t happened. So, in a way what we’ve done is digitally restored the painting, we’ve improved areas that would be otherwise adjusted by a restorer, potentially with a paintbrush, or by cleaning, and we’ve done that digitally and in the final reproduction, they look great!

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