Maerten in Cyberspace

Maerten in Cyberspace

Posted by Jimini Hignett
In 1996 over the space of just seven days, an enormous 17th century triptych by Dutch master Marten van Heemskerck which had been shipwrecked off the coast of Sweden is scanned and ‘returned’ in cyber-pieces to the Netherlands via internet to the Grote Laurens Kerk in Alkmaar, where a computer controlled plotter, under the eye of the public, ‘repaints’ the 6 by 8 meter triptych in the very location for which it was originally intended. The event was followed closely on the local and national media and the finished triptych was unveiled by Queen Beatrix.

Available at: (Accessed: 15 March 2010)


The opening of the Grote Kerk in Alkmaar is an important milestone; after five centuries, this gothic house of god is to play a more profane role as a modern multifunctional centre.

The Internet as public gallery; in just seven days, an enormous, 400 year-old triptych returns to the location it was originaly created for; de Grote Laurens Kerk in Alkmaar, the Netherlands. After the reformation in 1688, this triptych was sold and ended up in the Dom Church in Linköping, Sweden. Now the entire world can watch as the original is scanned in Sweden and send back in ‘pieces’ over the Internet to the Netherlands. Finally a computer-controlled plotter paints these pieces onto a blank 6 by 8 meter triptych.

Available at: (Accessed: 15 March 2010)

The legend of the altarpiece

The Laurentius altar is now in the Dome of Linköping in Sweden. According to a popular legend from the early 18th century, the altarpiece was ordered by the archbishop of Novgorod for a Russian church. During a storm on the Baltic Sea the ship stranded on the Swedish coast, which is how the altarpiece ended up in Sweden. For 1200 tons of flour it was purchased by King John III, who subsequently donated it to the Linköping Dome.

Reality is different, however. The big altar Maerten van Heemskerck had painted for the Grote Kerk had become obsolete after the Reformation. After all, the Grote Kerk was now used by the Protestant, who did not need altars. In 1581 it was sold to King John III ofSweden, who subsequently offered it to the Linköping Dome.

The digital return of the altarpiece

In September 1996, on the day of the official opening of the restored Grote Sint Laurenskerk, the digital return of the altarpiece was completed. A life-size copy in steel and Swedish wood was made of the main altar. In the Linköping Dome the original piece was scanned with a technical camera with a light-sensitive back cover, onto which the image was digitalized. The principle of the camera is similar to that of an ordinary scanner, but is has a resolution many times higher. The scans were then processed into sendable pieces, which were transported through the Internet. In Alkmaar the data were downloaded by the computer and the scans were corrected. Subsequently, the printer, a Michelangelo Airbrush provided with a Digital Painting Head, was computer-driven to present the actual reproduction of the information sent. The Michelangelo printed the separate panels, which were then suspended in the steel frame of the triptych.

The entire project was called ‘Maerten Cyberspace’, conceived and executed by Kees Bolten and his Werkmaatschappij (operating company). This performance (printing the triptych) was a big spectacle and was attended, among others, by the mayor of Linköping. For this project and several other spectacular expressions of art, Klaas Bolten received the Alkmaar Culture Award in 2002.

Available at: 15 March 2010)

“Maerten van Heemskerck (1498-1574) was one of the most important 16th-century painters from the Northern Netherlands”. In 1538 he was commissioned to make a triptych, which was finished in several stages (1538-1542). The Alkmaar triptych is the largest ever created in the Northern Netherlands. It is no less than 5.70 metres high and, with the panels opened, 8 metres wide.

Van Heemskerck’s style of painting is characterized by a clear, sharp light, often lending the images a cold, glass-like appearance. The triptych shows various influences of Van Heemskerck’s trip to Italy”.

I been study triptych and regions’ painting, for this reason a choseMAERTEN IN CYBERSPACE” ,from a traditional painting,  it been scan “with a technical camera with a light-sensitive back cover”, onto which the image was digitalized. Most of my project is in large scale and these new technologies offer the opportunity to reprint the original in a very large scale and “ to play a more profane role as a modern multifunctional centre”.



About irinacorduban

I always enjoyed Art from an early age and she spend most of her childhood drawing and design anything and everything! This love of Art has stayed with her and developed and grown and, now, I cannot imagine wanting to do anything else.
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