A painting longer than a soccer field is given a “digital twin” through a meticulous process that will yield one of the largest digital images ever created.
Louis Braun’s 1893 canvasThe panorama of the Battle of Murten is the subject of digitization efforts led by experts from the École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland.
Braun’s painting, which depicts the Confederates’ victory over the Duke of Burgundy at Murten in 1476, has seldom been shown publicly due to its enormous size of 30 feet by 300 feet. It was exhibited in Zurich and Geneva in the late 19th century and again at the Swiss National Exhibition in 2002, but otherwise remained rolled up in storage for most of its existence.
But thanks to EPFL and Sarah Kenderdine, head of the university’s laboratory for experimental museology, Braun’s masterpiece will soon be given a much larger audience.
Kenderdine and her team developed a custom facility that allows an ultra-high-resolution camera to scan the painting’s surface over the course of four months, creating approximately 400,000 photos. The ultimate goal is a pinpoint digital recreation of the canvas that will be freely accessible until 2026 – just in time for the 550th anniversary of the Battle of Murten.
“As far as published research indicates, this is expected to be the largest seamless frame ever created at 1,600 gigapixels,” said Kenderdine in a expression. “That’s 1.6 trillion pixels, or picture elements.”
Braun, who was one of the outstanding panorama painters of his time, completed the Battle of Murten in 1893 within 10 months.
It was originally intended to be displayed in a rotunda and is therefore hyperboloidal in shape, preventing it from lying flat like a more traditional painting would. To accommodate this, Kenderdine’s crew will unwind the painting over a special substrate to ensure the images are captured cleanly.
A 150 megapixel camera, specially developed by its manufacturer for the digitization of cultural heritage, will be EPFL’s preferred tool. The camera will also be able to capture images beyond the red, green and blue color spectrum, allowing for a detailed look at the composition of the canvas beyond its surface.
“The Murten panorama is a national treasure and our project gives us a new approach to Swiss history and culture,” says Daniel Jaquet, member of the Foundation for the Panorama of the Battle of Murten, created in collaboration with EPFL digitization possible. “It contains not only very detailed accounts of a battle, but also very rich socio-cultural aspects through the lens of late 19th-century worldview.”
By digitizing the painting,” Jaquet explained, “we free ourselves from the limitations of a traditional military history approach.”
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