Colnaghi Factum - The science of art

Colnaghi Factum Labs is a groundbreaking enterprise that enables museums and private collectors to bring new levels of stewardship to the works in their collections. With Labs in New York, London, and Madrid, Colnaghi Factum is producing highly detailed 3D scans of the surface topography of paintings and precise recordings of their colour that together form the foundation of a Digital Passport for each work.

The Colnaghi Factum Digital Passport provides a scientifically precise rendering and information about the painting that generates new insights into its materiality and unparalleled data for enhancing its care and monitoring its condition. These evaluations are essential to collectors of art from all eras – from ancient to old masters to contemporary – in determining the optimal strategies for presentation, storage, and lending, as well as for preemptively addressing the inherent deterioration of the materials of which it is composed. This technology has already been utilized for major paintings by Velázquez, El Greco, Murillo, Goya, Fra Angelico, Michelangelo, Raphael, Leonardo, Bellini, Titian, Caravaggio, Rembrandt, Frans Hals, Rubens, Van Dyck, Boucher, Reynolds, Monet, Van Gogh, Picasso, Malevich, Kirchner, and many more.

The Digital Passports transform what has previously been viewed as flat surfaces into dimensional ecosystems and chronicles the painting’s biography through changes brought about by time and treatments. Brush marks and incisions, pentimenti and fingerprints, overpainting and retouches, unstable and flaking paint, stretcher bars and the canvas weave, and other conditions are revealed and recorded in unprecedented detail. This material information also makes it possible to diagnose underlying and symptomatic issues that are essential for guiding conservation and restoration decisions.

In liberating the material evidence embedded in the surface of a paintings, the scans reveal complexities and subtleties that advance scholarship by bringing the work and its history to life in new ways. They also trace the hand of the artist, providing new insights into their original intention and the process of making the image, opening up new frontiers for scholarly research.

The Digital Passports enable collectors, institutions, scholars, restorers, and other specialists to access a trove of new data and collaborate online without the need for specialized hardware or software.

Colnaghi Factum Labs is built around Factum Foundation’s Lucida 3D scanner, a non-contact laser system developed by the artist and engineer Manuel Franquelo and the Foundation team. The Foundation has concurrently created systems that produce highly accurate color recordings that are captured independently and mapped onto the 3D scans. Through trailblazing research and development, Colnaghi Factum is drawing upon machine learning and artificial intelligence in creating new tools for the iconographic searching of archives, attribution and authentication, and other critical services in which human and digital connoisseurship merge.

The Digital Passport is intuitive and easy to use, unifying diverse types of information about a work at the same scale in a single, unified digital file. It provides the objectivity that is essential for condition reports and for tracking any changes when works are loaned or restored. In addition to the exact surface mapping and composite colour that forms its foundation, the Digital Passport can collate in perfectly registered layers X-ray, infra-red and multi-spectral recordings, restoration and condition reports, historical photographs and scholarly analyses.

The Factum Foundation has scanned more than 200 paintings in their Madrid workshop, at museums, and other locations. They have worked with institutions as the Museo del Prado, the Louvre, The National Gallery of London, British Museum, V&A, The National Gallery of Art Washington DC, Fundación Banco Santander, the Tretyakov Gallery and Wilton House among others. They have also recorded facades, frescoes, and sculptures in situ in such locations as the Valley of the Kings in Luxor, Egypt, the Nabatean tombs and rock-cut inscriptions at Hegra in Saudi Arabia, and the whole island of San Giorgio Maggiore in Venice. All data collected using the Lucida 3D Scanner and other recording methods and that is collated in the Digital Passports remain the exclusive property of the owner of the work of art.

Colnaghi Factum is a collaboration between Colnaghi and the Factum Foundation, unifying and building upon the expertise and research capabilities of each, and providing access to their extensive networks of scholars, institutions, conservators, and other professionals to the owners of the works.