Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Da Vinci

I think that this issue of creating replicas of works of art to display in the place of the originals is a strange concept. I understand that we want to preserve the original works, but what is the point of having them if they are sitting in a lightless airless box where no one can see them. By preserving the originals we are prematurely ending their existence for the purpose for which they were made. I think that there is something to be said for seeing a work of art for the original purpose for which it was made. I am not sure if it is more important for me to see the original, or the context, or just the image. I am reminded of seeing the statue of Marcus Aurelius at Capitoline Hill in Rome. In the center of the piazza there is a large replica statue where the original used to stand. Inside the museum was the original. I was much more impressed by the replica in context than the original in a white room. I felt almost the same when seeing the David in Florence. The only thing this lacks is the general sensation that I am in the presence of the actual object that was touched by Michelangelo (for example), but that is a rather fleeting sensation for myself. This very similar to the digital replica of the painting discussed in the article.
I still think that digital technologies are not quite advanced enough to create an exact replica of most works of art. An extremely high resolution digital print of a renaissance painting might be sufficient to capture the physicality of the work. Renaissance artists painted very flat, but could this work for Van Gogh? Once depth is introduced into a painting then a digital print is no longer sufficient. It seems that we already have the technology to create an accurate representation of a flat surface, and I am fairly sure that we can scan three-dimensional objects and create a perfect replica. We need to combine the two. I think if we could create a 3D replica of a painting that captures the brush strokes and depth, and colors each stroke appropriately then I think that there is little difference between owning or viewing the real thing or a replica.

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