»Digital Mona Lisa« by H. Philip Peterson | i |
 
creators: H. Philip Peterson
title: Digital Mona Lisa
year: 1964
material:

drawing, b/w, computer-aided
size: 129 × 80 cm

algorithm: A standard routine of scanning followed by printing; a low level of algorithmic effort.
artwork type: drawing
Description

Computer-aided drawing, produced on a Calcomp 30-inch plotter.

Because of the technique of its generation, the Digital Mona Lisa is also known as Mona by Numbers.

H. Philip Peterson of Control Data Corporation (CDC) used a CDC 3200 computer and a scanner (that he called “flying-spot”) to create in 1964 a digital transposition of Leonardo da Vinci’s famous painting, “Mona Lisa” (done in 1503/04). He thus created a digital representation of the analogue original. Peterson’s generative idea was to consider the original painting as a grid of small colored dots (now called “pixels”). The colors were, however, reduced to only grey of various shades. These shades of grey were realized on a Calcomp plotter by using numerical characters, some overprinting others to approximate the grey levels. This production process took 14 hours to complete the image of 100,000 pixels. (See http://www.digitalmonalisa.com)

The three illustrations are showing the image at different levels of detail thus making visible the use of the numerals.

Rights

We do not know who – if anybody – owns the rights for publishing the image. Numerous copies exist of the original Calcomp print created by Philip Peterson. The “Comments” section further down may be interesting in this respect.

Owned by institutions
Comments
anonymous
posted about 4 years ago
Hi, I actually found an authentic original "Digital Mona Lisa". I have an email from the owner of digitalmonalisa.com and he agrees it is the real thing. I am sort of wondering what my next move should be as it is apparently so rare that even he doesn't know the value or how many were made etc. I assume from the brittle paper and possible UV light damage that only a handful survived. Any further knowledge would be much appreciated. Matt Haider
anonymous
posted about 4 years ago
An interesting case, indeed. I have no idea how to find out. There is no well established market for any kind of digital art, although a few artists are selling quite well. This work is really a technical procedure only, a proof of what can do (and could do in 1964). The only idea that comes to mind may be to see a gallery like bitforms in New York and ask them whether they are able to estimate such a piece. – Frieder Nake
anonymous
posted about 3 years ago
I have found another original print . Any interest ?
anonymous
posted about 3 years ago
Fantastic! Where do the prints come from? Unfortunately, we do not have a budget for acquisitions. Frieder Nake
anonymous
posted over 1 year ago
I have an original "Mona by the Numbers" I was exporting CDC & Univac computers and computer parts world wide out of JFK Airport. This copy was given to me from CDC Minneapolis MN. Its in great condition. I too would like to know if there is any value to it.
anonymous
posted over 1 year ago
There are meanwhile, 50 years and more after the first experimemts in digital or algorithmic art, a number of collections in museums and also collectors specializing in this kind of art. Still, a market does not exist. But, as mentioned before already, a few galleries concentrate on algorithmic art. "Mona Lisa" is, of course, more digital than algorithmic. You should talk to DAM Galleries in Berlin (office@dam.org) or bitforms gallery in New York. Frieder N.
anonymous
posted about 1 year ago
My Dad worked for CDC in research and development in Minneapolis, MN and then in Ontario, Canada. I have a “Mona Lisa” digital print. I had it framed in 2010. I would love to find a computer museum that would be interested in acquiring it.
anonymous
posted 8 months ago
From Spain. I am another original Mona by the Numbers owner. Glad to recive mails about this digital art piece. Thanks
anonymous
posted 4 months ago
I have one of these also, It was a gift from William Norris the President of CDC to My Aunt as a gesture of appreciation for the business She conducted with them. It has always been in a frame and is in excellent condition. I wish to discover the value as well. I can only speculate. Regards, Tim Wolford
anonymous
posted 3 months ago
I have one that i recently found cleaning out an attic. It was in the original tube with other paper work in regards to how it was made. It is numbered and dated. I am keeping it in the tube until i can have it proffesionaly mounted or someone offers something substantial for it. Otherwise its a joy to look at. Surely curious about the value.
anonymous
posted 2 months ago
Hello Mona Lisa Owners. I have one that is in excellent condition and not exposed to light Mine has some rare provenance. Steve Jobs gave the Digital Mona Lisa to my mentor, Henry Wolf some years after the Aspen Design Conference held in 1983 where Steve spoke and I met him as a young graduate. He wanted to seduce Henry into drinking the computer world koolaid and gave this 'art' to Henry who was a classicist and did not like computers. I purchased mine from Henry's sister with the money that Henry left me in his will upon his death as I was his protege and top student in NYC. What is it worth... without Steve's signature or Henry's ... all I have is the true story about what computers symbolized to us as designer / typographers in New York working with the best people and how the technology world enveloped us classically trained publishing folks and the history of that tranformation of hand to machine and who were the instruments of change.
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