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How Does an Artist Paint a Teardrop?

I am going to show you something my friends Ken Shelton and Jerome Burg shared with me some time ago.  I don’t want to take credit for something I neither created nor discovered.  I just want to share it, because it is stinkin’ AMAZING.

What I am going to share with you is in Google Earth.  If you don’t have Google Earth installed on your computer, you need to stop reading right now, open another tab in your browser, and go to this link so you can install it: http://earth.google.com/

Go ahead. Go now. I’ll wait.

Screen shot of the 3-D Museo del Prado in Google EarthOkay, ready?  In the Layers section at the left of your screen, you need to “turn on” 3D Buildings by making sure there is a check in the checkbox in front of it in the list.  (This is a feature you normally don’t want turned on, as it slows down Google Earth and your computer considerably.  But we need it for what I am going to show you.)

Now, use the search feature to type in “Museo del Prado, Madrid, Spain” (but without the quotation marks).  Give it a minute to get you there and for the 3-D buildings to appear.

Click on the building that is the Museo del Prado.  Wait while a pop-up balloon finishes loading.  You’re looking for content with a title “Masterpieces.”  Click on the one called “Descent From the Cross” that shows a close-up of a woman crying.  You will get a new pop-up balloon.

Underneath a picture of the painting, you will see a link that reads, “Browse this picture in ultra high resolution.”  Click on it, please.

Masterpieces balloon from Google EarthHold on to your hat! You should now be flying into the museum.  Before you know it, you will have the painting in front of you.  Zoom in as close as you can to the face of that crying woman.  Get in close so you can count her tears.

When Ken Shelton showed us this at CUE in Palm Springs last March, Jerome Burg was sitting next to me.  He leaned over and whispered, “I have stood in front of that painting at the Prado. You can’t get anywhere NEAR close enough to see those tears!”  He also started me thinking about something I would imagine would excite art teachers no end.  How does an artist use paints to depict clear liquid, appearing three-dimensional, on a two-dimensional canvas?  Look around for other fine details: the curly hair on the man directly in front of her (he’s also crying), the eyelashes on the woman in green (she’s also crying).  In fact, if you’re standing in Madrid, right in front of this picture, you can’t tell that so many of them are crying; it’s the handkerchief that gives it away for the first person we looked at.  Individuals hairs in beards. Inside the wound in Christ’s chest.  Cranial fissures on the skull at the bottom and serrated edges of leaves beside it.  The lions and lettering on the belt of the woman at the far right.  The holes in the hands and feet of Jesus.  The piercing points on the crown of thorns.

Deposition by Rogier van der WeydenBrowse through the other Masterpieces on display at the virtual Museo.  There are fourteen now, and folks at Google told us recently that they don’t know when more content like this will be made available.  But at least, for now, we know they CAN do it, and likely someday will add to this collection with more works and more museums.

Two images are screen shots from Google Earth.

Image of painting is from Wikimedia Commons, public domain.

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