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The digitisation of the Raphael Cartoons at the V&A

The digitisation of the Raphael Cartoons at the V&A

One year after the completion of the high-resolution recording in 3D, infra-red and colour of all seven Cartoons by Raphael, the V&A, the Royal Collection Trust and Factum Foundation have made their collaboration public, ahead of the reopening of the gallery in which the Cartoons are housed.

On 14 November 2020, the Raphael Court will reopen following a nine-month refurbishment to mark the 500th anniversary of Raphael's death. The refreshed gallery and its new interpretive approach aim to transform the way museum visitors experience the Cartoons, lent to the V&A by Her Majesty the Queen and the Royal Collection.

This vast recording project took place in August 2019, when Factum Foundation employed non-contact digital technology to capture detailed information about the surfaces of the seven monumental Cartoons. This was followed by several months of data processing in Factum Foundation's headquarters in Madrid. The original and processed high-resolution data was then provided to the V&A for study and dissemination. This work, one of Factum Foundation's most ambitious digitisation projects to date, has set new standards for large-scale, high-resolution digital documentation of low-relief surfaces.

In order to complete the recordings, a team of specialists from Factum Foundation worked around the clock in three shifts for a period of five weeks, during which time the gallery was closed to the public. By following a carefully planned schedule it was possible to coordinate the recording of the Cartoons with the removal and replacement of the vast frames, the production of conservation condition reports, and other tasks carried out by the Museum's staff. Fluent communication and coordination between the different teams was key to the success of the recording phase of the project.

The processed data of all Cartoons will be made accessible by the V&A for the reopening of the Raphael Court in November 2020, in the form of a multi-layered viewer designed by Factum Foundation. It will be possible to focus on a specific detail and to turn the different layers (relief, colour and infra-red information) off and on in an intuitive way. This offers a new way of studying the Cartoons, which are among the greatest treasures of the Renaissance in the UK.