National Gallery brings 16th century church to life - VR headsets 1

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The power of art, place and VR are on display at the National Gallery

Quick read

➨ The National Gallery in London is hosting a digital exhibition early next year that uses VR to recreate the setting in which a sixteenth-century painting was originally displayed
➨ Visitors to the exhibition will be able to admire The Consecration of Saint Nicholas by Paolo Veronese
➨ Focal Point VR developed the VR simulation at the centre of the digital exhibition, called Virtual Veronese

The story

The National Gallery in London is hosting a digital exhibition early next year that uses virtual reality (VR) to recreate the setting in which a sixteenth-century painting was originally displayed.

Visitors to the exhibition, to be held from 7 March to 3 April 2022, will be able to admire The Consecration of Saint Nicholas, by Paolo Veronese, as it would have been seen in 1562.

Focal Point VR developed the VR simulation at the centre of the digital exhibition, called Virtual Veronese, that features a virtual recreation of the original chapel in the church of San Benedetto al Po, near Mantua.

National Gallery brings 16th century church to life - 3D scan
A 3D capture of the original chapel, by ScanLAB projects

Wearing VR headsets, visitors to the National Gallery can attend the 20-minute virtual exhibition, guided by either curator Dr Rebecca Gill or historical figure Abbot Asola, who originally commissioned the painting.

National Gallery brings 16th century church to life - Virtual Veronese
Dr Rebecca Gill acting as a virtual guide during the exhibition

The exhibition is accompanied by a chant and music that were performed at the time the painting was produced.

Virtual Veronese is designed to give a sense of how the huge 2.8m by 1.7m oil painting first appeared in the sixteenth century, in between a radical remodelling and enlargement of the church of San Benedetto al Po and the 1820s, when it was removed from the church during the Napoleonic Wars.

Lawrence Chiles, head of digital at the National Gallery in London, explains: “‘Virtual Veronese’ has enabled us to understand how immersive storytelling can add depth of experience, meaning, and emotion to gallery visitors’ engagement with our paintings.”

Dr Gill adds: “Through this project we are able to bring architecture into the gallery and allow our visitors to explore for themselves what it might have been like to stand in front of Veronese’s painting some 500 years ago.”

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Images: National Gallery and Focal Point VR

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