Still Life With Turkey Pie by Pieter Claesz hangs at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. I found it while poking around on the Google Arts site, my new favorite source for images. It gives a good idea of the high quality that computer images can have. There are a number of paintings I might have written about if I could have found a good graphic, but the quality of so many images is so poor. Sometimes Wikicommons has good images, like the image above, and Mark Hayden’s Artchive has fine images, but the few images available so far at Google Art are just outstanding.
My first art post was a meditation on Dishes with Oysters, Fruit, and Wine by Osias Beert, using the graphic from the National Gallery in DC. This is a much better painting than the Claesz, but there is no comparison between the images. Beert’s oysters are almost perfectly lifelike, but you wouldn’t know it from this image. The National Gallery has taken down the details I linked, a great loss, because they came close to showing Beert’s skill. In this image, though, you wouldn’t know how much better he is than Claesz. . . .
The Claesz painting is an excellent example of its genre. With the close-up feature of Google Art, we can see exactly why. Look at the bejeweled nautilus chalice: the nacre shimmers, and the gold filigree work is exquisite. Move to full enlargement and look at the pewter coffee pot at the left. What looks like a shimmer on the lid turns out to be a reflection of the window, worked out in detail and showing a good grasp of the effect of the curved coffee pot. There are other reflections, equally accurate. We see for ourselves that Claesz was a perfectionist. While you are there, move to the right a bit and look at the feral beast on the spout of the pot.
On the other hand, the grapes and the fruit in the bowl on the right look waxen and fake. The oysters are flaccid puddles compared to Beert’s ready-to-eat version, at least when you see it at the National Gallery. The turkey head is well-done, but the feathers lack definition, and the colors seem slightly wrong. The greenish wine goblet is nice, but Beert’s is a translucent delight, which is not apparent in the national Gallery’s on-line version. I do like the nice touch of the shaved lemon in the Claesz, showing his understanding of the art of eating oysters.
Google Art has at least two other paintings I have discussed. One is Marriage Portrait of Isaac Massa and Beatrix Van der Laen by Franz Hals, which uses this image. Compare that to the Google Art version. This post discussed Judith and Holofernes by Artemesia Gentileschi, located at the Uffizi in Florence. I linked to an image at the Artchive, which compares fairly well with the Google Art image.
This project includes the use of gigapixel technology, although that is only available on a few paintings. Take a look at this image of Hans Holbein’s The Ambassadors. You can see every detail. Try a high magnification on the fur collar.
Art isn’t about looking at. It’s about actively seeing.