Considered the most famous painting of all time, "The Last Supper," by Leonardo Da Vinci, is now available online as a high resolution image for up-close viewing down to the square millimeter.
Officials have photographed the original masterpiece located in Milan using a high-tech process and on Saturday posted a digital version of the painting. Anyone with internet connection can now view the image up to a world-breaking record of 16 billion pixels — 1,600 times stronger than images normally photographed with a 10 million pixel digital camera.
The high resolution image of "The Last Supper," composed of 1,677 individual images, will allow experts and art lovers the accessibility and the leisure to examine the 15th century painting in detail as though they were only inches away.
Details also let viewers see the traces of drawings Da Vinci put down before the painting.
"You can see how Leonardo made the cups transparent something you can't ordinarily see," said art curator Alberto Artioli, according to the Associated Press. "You can also note the state of degradation the painting is in."
Artoli added that the project also provides a historical document of how the painting appears in 2007.
Since Da Vinci used an experimental painting technique, parts of the masterpiece have subsequently peeled off or have been badly damaged.
It is still debatable whether a filtration system introduced during a restoration of the chapel in the late 1990s has effectively reduced dust particles brought by visitors.
But in any condition, the artwork continues to spark the imagination of conspiracy theorists.
A few months ago, an Italian amateur scholar claimed that the painting contained hidden images of a knight, a woman holding a baby, and a goblet. These images appeared when the painting was superimposed with its mirror image and both were made partially transparent, according to the scholar.
More notably, author Dan Brown had weaved into his fictional novel The Da Vinci Code the theory that the male figure on Christ's immediate right is actually Mary Magdalene. In the best-seller, which has been adapted into a movie, Brown also contends that Magdalene was the wife of Jesus Christ and was pregnant with his child.
Brown's work has been viewed by Catholics and Protestants as an attack on the Church and prompted Christians to step up efforts to defend the faith amid increased efforts to debunk Christianity.
Most recently, the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention announced plans to certify as many as 500 new apologetics instructors, charging them to defend the truth and credibility of the Christian faith.
Meanwhile New York Times bestselling author Dinesh D'Souza is urging Christians not to always turn the other cheek and ignore the attacks of secular thought, claiming that believers have left the public square unoccupied.
"We don't want the public square to be dominated by the atheists," he said.
A movie based on Brown's Angels And Demons, a prequel to The Da Vinci Code, is scheduled to release in December 2008.
On the Web: The "Last Supper" image at haltadefinizione.com.