January 15, 2009 Google has become by default the gatekeeper of global information for this generation, and the company frequently takes great pains to demonstrate how seriously it takes this responsibility. In the latest of a series of moves to catalogue and present the vast amount of human knowledge and achievement it doesn't already index, Google has harnessed some wonderful technology to present some of Europe's greatest artworks in 14 thousand-megapixel resolution. Using Google Earth, you can now browse through some of the finest works in Madrid's Prado museum in detail so fine that you can see every crack in the paint and almost smell the canvas.

Photographing large artworks for preservation and presentation is no easy task - especially when you're aiming for the micro-fine level of detail Google has gone for with its latest Google Earth addition. One problem is how to photograph a huge artwork from one point, then display it without perspective distortion as the corners of the canvas get further from the camera lens.

But it seems the Google team have sorted this one out, as 14 masterpieces from Spain's most popular art collection, the Museo del Prado, can now be viewed using Google Earth.

The level of detail is astonishing - according to Google: "The paintings have been photographed in very high resolution and contain as many as 14,000 million pixels (14 gigapixels). With this high level resolution you are able to see fine details such as the tiny bee on a flower in The Three Graces (Las Tres Gracias), delicate tears on the faces of the figures in The Descent from the Cross (El Descendimiento ) and complex figures in The Garden of Earthly Delights (El Jardin de las Delicias)"

Try it for yourself - Download and install Google Earth, then open the application, enable 3D buildings in the Layers options bar, then type "Prado" in the 'fly to' search bar. Click on the building to open up a list of paintings.

The video below shows some of the effort the Google team went to in order to capture these masterpieces, as well as the extraordinary level of detail you can access them in.

Loz Blain

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