VUB spin-off uses advanced imaging technology to document restoration of Van Eyck masterpiece

The Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) spin-off Universum Digitalis has carried out digital image processing of the Madonna of Chancellor Rolin by Jan van Eyck for the Louvre in Paris. It documented the restoration of the masterpiece in unprecedented detail, giving a unique pixel-level comparison of the painting both before and after its restoration.

In November 2021, the Louvre launched a large-scale conservation and restoration project for the Madonna of Chancellor Rolin, one of Van Eyck’s best-known works. The project was completed in December 2023. Using advanced imaging technology, Universum Digitalis played an important role in documenting the restoration processes.

Belgium’s Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage documented both the front and back of the painting after the restoration, using hundreds of macro photographs.

"Universum Digitalis assembled the images," says Frederik Temmermans of VUB, co-founder of Universum Digitalis. "The images were analysed and merged using advanced algorithms to produce gigapixel images of the work. This enabled a unique comparison of the work before and after restoration at the pixel level."

Pixel-level comparison of the front and back of the work before and after restoration

"This collaboration is a crucial step in preserving and documenting our cultural heritage," says Prof Temmermans. "It’s important that we continue to make use of advanced technologies to protect historic works of art and make them accessible to the public."

The restored work is on display at the Louvre until 17 June, as part of the exhibition Revoir Van Eyck - La Vierge du chancelier Rolin.

About Universum Digitalis

Universum Digitalis is a spin-off of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel that is globally recognised for its expertise in high-resolution image processing. It was founded in 2008 by Frederik Temmermans and Dr Ir Iris Vanhamel and has a rich history of partnerships with leading cultural heritage institutions across Europe. The collaboration with the Louvre is a case in point.