Ultra High Resolution Paintings in Google Earth

[UPDATE: Here’s Google’s post about the new layer, and a video which shows how they captured the paintings in ultra-high resolution using digital photography.]
Google has added a new layer tonight. The layer is for the “Museo Nacional del Prado” in Madrid, Spain. This layer is special because it shows you a selection of 14 paintings from the museum which have been scanned at ultra-high resolution. You use the Google Earth Photo Overlay feature to view the paintings. First, you can find the new layer in the Layers pane under: “Geographic Web -> Preview -> Museo de Prado“. Once there, select the layer (if it isn’t already) and double-click the “Museo Prado” placemark. This will fly you to the museum. Make sure the “3D Buildings” layer is turned on to see the outside of the museum rendered in 3D. Then select the placemark “Museo Nacional del Prado” and you should see 14 thumbnails of the paintings Google selected for showing (they said it was hard narrowing the choice to so few, but these are among the best).
Museo Prado layer in Google Earth
You can select a photo to see some details about that painting, and then click on the new larger thumbnail to fly into the museum and view it in high resolution. You are then presented with the GE Photo Overlay interface – read here for how to navigate the interface. Zoom in to see the details. These photos are really amazing to view – and the resolution is really amazing. You can see individual brushstrokes, textures of the canvas, and in some cases cracks in the surface of the paint or surface! Make sure you try some of these photos.
Zooming on paintings in Google Earth

About Frank Taylor

Frank Taylor started the Google Earth Blog in July, 2005 shortly after Google Earth was first released. He has worked with 3D computer graphics and VR for many years and was very impressed with this exciting product. Frank completed a 5.5 year circumnavigation of the earth by sailboat in June 2015 which you can read about at Tahina Expedition, and is a licensed pilot, backpacker, diver, and photographer.


  1. Great work!
    How did you scan de paintings?

  2. That museum was the most boring place of my entire Europe trip. There were just two interesting art pieces amongst halls and halls of depressing religious paintings. A very strange set of three panels with pink bubbles in a garden, looking like aliens having fun amongst the shrubs. I wish I could remember the name. Then a side by side comparison of two paintings of the same woman. One given to the woman’s husband, and one (the nude one) kept by the artist.

  3. Craig, it’s a pity that you don’t enjoy classical painting. Unfortunately religion was too important in peoples lives since the early Middle Age. Hence those “depressing religious paintings” you say. Of course, if you have no idea and/or no interest, the Prado Museum, one of the best in the world, may seem boring to you. The strange picture you liked (at least!!) is The Garden of Earthly Delights, a “pre-surrealist” masterpiece by the Dutch Hieronymus Bosch (1460-1516), a challenging genius for that time.

  4. Juliana, thanks, I’ve wondered about the name of that painting for over five years. It’s great the Google Earth has brought that up again, though like Stefan Geens says it’s not really the most suitable viewing tool. As the the museum I did walk through every room and at least cast a glance at every painting but I swear whole wing is given over to hundreds of versions of the same scene (Christ dying of a stab wound in the arms of who ever commissioned the painting). Thanks to the interwebs I can now pick and choose my classical art. The Garden of Earthly Delights is definitely on the chosen list.

  5. “Ultra high” is too much. Let’s say “High”… They can do more, I think.

  6. This is “sorta only” high resolution, but definitely NOT ultra high resolution.

  7. nice. i’ve seen the louvre up close and personal but it will be interesting to take a gander online

Leave a Reply