Photo in the News: "Last Supper" Explodes Into Hi-Res

Picture of the Last Supper from a high-resolution Web site
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October 29, 2007—Sorry, Da Vinci Code buffs. There are still no telltale whiskers to be found on the Apostle John/Mary Magdalene (sixth from left)—despite the hair-raising precision of the new 16-billion-pixel image of "The Last Supper" posted online Saturday.

Stitched together from 1,677 digital pictures by Italian art-restoration and imaging company Hal9000, the interactive image (visible here) allows users the illusion of standing just inches from the 15-by-29-foot (4.6-by-8.8-meter) painting in Milan's Santa Maria delle Grazie.

Such nose-length viewing reveals Leonardo da Vinci's brushstrokes, a sprawling topography of paint cracks, and even a tiny peacock "embroidered" into the tablecloth (pictured).

The circa 1495 mural depicts Jesus Christ announcing that one of the Twelve Apostles at the table would betray him.

"You can see how Leonardo made the cups transparent, something you can't ordinarily see," curator Alberto Artioli told the Associated Press. "You can also note the degradation the painting is in."

The new, high-definition image halts that slow disintegration, at least virtually—and perhaps just in time. Despite strict visiting and lighting rules, recent accounts have suggested that Milanese pollution continues to cloud Leonardo's masterpiece.

Ted Chamberlain

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