»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 scanning and printing routine, low level
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) utilized a CDC 3200 computer and a scanner (he called “flying-spot”) to create in 1964 a digital transposition of Leonardo da Vinci’s painting, “Mona Lisa” (done in 1503/04). He thus created a digital representation of the analog original. The production process took 14 hours to complete the image of 100,000 pixels. They were plotted on a Calcomp plotter using numerals, sometimes overprinted by others, to approximate the required grey level density (cf. www.digitalmonalisa.com). See also
www.computer-history.info/Page1.dir/pages/Michael.html

The production procedure was, most likely, this: A photographic reproduction of the original painting (a slide) was scanned, thus generating a large array of grey-level pixels; the grey values were represented by numeral characters, and perhaps printed over to get good enough an approximation to the grey value; on the plotter paper, these numerals became the material making visible the digital encoding.

The three illustrations are showing the image in increasing detail. The numerals become visible in the left-most version.

Rights

Claims of ownership are made by a Matt Haider (by a comment in March 2016) and an Andy Patros (in an email message of 21 August, 2016). Numerous copies were produced.

Owned by institutions
Comments
anonymous
posted over 3 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 over 3 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 over 2 years ago
I have found another original print . Any interest ?
anonymous
posted over 2 years ago
Fantastic! Where do the prints come from? Unfortunately, we do not have a budget for acquisitions. Frieder Nake
anonymous
posted about 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 about 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 6 months 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 4 days ago
From Spain. I am another original Mona by the Numbers owner. Glad to recive mails about this digital art piece. Thanks
enter new comment
(Please leave an email address or your name. This is completely optional and only used to get in contact with you.)