Starry Night in 3D
Explore Vincent van Gogh’s beloved painting in astonishing detail in this behind-the-scenes look at a new imaging tool.
Kurt Heumiller, Jonathan Muzikar, Robert Kastler
Dec 1, 2020
Animation showing how twelve different angles give a better understanding of the shape of the paint.
Next, it took an extremely powerful computer a couple of hours to compute the camera locations and align the 230 gigabytes of data. Over the course of the following week, we worked to refine the alignment and increase the accuracy of the model. It’s a little like trimming the I Love Lucy Christmas tree—cut one side that sticks out and now the other side is unbalanced and needs trimming, so you have to stand back and reevaluate how everything fits together, then trim and repeat. The improved alignment was then handed back to the computer to calculate the shape of the painting in 3D space. This process took over a day for the computer to complete, but resulted in measurements with a precision of approximately three microns (3 µm)—less than half the width of a human blood cell. The resulting Starry Night model is made of over 329 million points in 3d space.
The small area highlighted in the red circle is shown as dots rendered in 3D space bellow.
The conservation and presentation of MoMA’s collection is made possible by Bank of America.