Making Mona Lisa Smile: Digital Imaging Reveals Hidden Truths

In celebration of Alumni Weekend, Mr. Ralph Bernstein (B.S. Electrical Engineering ’56), an expert in digital imaging, will discuss the NASA technology used to reveal the hidden story behind Leonardo da Vinci’s famed Mona Lisa.  Art historian and adjunct professor of English, Dr. Mary Gallucci, will join Ralph in the discussion of the technique and its use in revealing hidden features of vulnerable artworks, as well as Renaissance art practices.  They will also participate in a post-discussion Q&A.

Everyone is welcome to attend!

Details are below:

Date: Friday, June 1, 2012
Time: 3 – 5 p.m.
Location: Student Union Theatre
RSVP: Reply here

During its 500 years, the protective varnish covering the Mona Lisa painting had yellowed and become crazed, making it difficult to fully appreciate the exquisite beauty of the original painting.  In 1986, Mr. Bernstein participated on a team that sought to digitally “peel back the layers” on the famed portrait.  The examination was begun on the initiative of Dr. John Asmus, a physicist at the University of California, San Diego. A color image of the painting was converted into digital form, suitable for computer processing, by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA.  Mr. Bernstein and Jitendra Dave at IBM’s Scientific Center in Palo Alto applied digital image processing technologies pioneered for NASA’s earth-observation and medical-imaging research to correct the color of the image, digitally remove the varnish cracking, and bring out evidence of an over-painted necklace and restoration attempts.

Mr. Bernstein, now a science and engineering consultant, spent 36 years at IBM, where he was Principal Investigator on the Landsat-l Program. For his demonstration of the feasibility and accuracy of digitally processing and correcting Landsat MSS and RBV data, he received the NASA Medal for Exceptional Scientific Achievement.

Read more here: http://www.nytimes.com/1986/06/17/science/space-age-methods-penetrate-art-of-the-past.html?pagewanted=all

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