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Prado museum masterpieces on display for art lovers

world Updated: Jan 14, 2009 01:32 IST

Fourteen masterpieces from Spain's Prado museum went on display in microscopic detail on Google Earth on Tuesday, in what was hailed as a first for a major international museum.

Among the works available for inspection online is Diego Velazquez's "Las Meninas" depicting the Infanta Margarita and her courtiers, regarded by many as his greatest work and one of the best-known paintings at the two-centuries-old Prado.

Other works which art lovers can examine in detail from their computers are Francisco de Goya's "El Tres de Mayo", Hieronymus Bosch's triptych "The Garden of Earthly Delights" as well as painting by Rubens, Titian, Rembrandt and El Greco.

"This is the first time in the world that this is being done," the director of the Spanish branch of US Internet giant Google, Javier Rodriguez Zapatero, said during an official presentation of the project.

To view the masterpieces people must first install Google Earth, a virtual map programme that uses satellite information and photography, which can be downloaded for free from the Google website.

They will then be able to scan the surface of the canvases as if using a magnifying glass, capturing brush strokes as well as other details which would be impossible to see if they visited the gallery in person.

"A digital reproduction can not substitute an original work but it allows one to look at details that one could never see with the naked eye," said Prado director Miguel Zugaza.

The Google Earth images of the masterpieces where stitched together from hundreds of high-reolution photographs of the paintings.

The project, which was completed over 10 months, was entirely financed by Google and was entirely free for the Prado, said Zugaza.

The Prado displays some 1,400 paintings, mostly by Spanish masters. It is one of Madrid's top tourist draws, attracting more than two million visitors last year.