Google Earth Gives Close-up To Prado Masterpieces

Google Earth has already wowed amateur cartographers with its 3-D street grids. Now, aspiring art historians can join the fan club: Google is partnering with Madrid's Prado to give 14 masterpieces an extreme close-up. The new application is breathtaking—Google Earth zooms in close enough to see the cracks on the canvas. Sumptuous details emerge: the candy-colored jewels dripping from the brooch on Rembrandt's "Artemis"; dimples in the derrières of Rubens's three "Graces." Google Earth gets the colors right, mostly, although its "Annunciation" by Fra Angelico can't do justice to the original's sheen. But the same painting flourishes under the microscope. (One of the most beautiful parts is in the tiny upper left corner, where an angel with sunset robes banishes Adam and Eve from Eden.) Museumgoers would never get close enough to the real canvas to drool over such hidden gems. So while Google Earth's "Las Meninas" will never rival the real one, it gives satisfaction to those of us who can't spring for a ticket to Spain. Next on the wish list? Google Earth d'Orsay.

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