The App that brings Paintings to Life

Thanks to the Smartphone, one can now travel back in time whilst observing a painting, through a new app that tells you what you usually wouldn’t see: the long life of a work of art and what has happened to it since it came out of the artist’s workshop. Vicissitudes of renovations, different locations, changes and anecdotes that make its history even more unique. You can try this digital viewing experience for the first time on Saturday 24th and Sunday the 25th of September at the Gallerie dell’Accademia of Venice, as part of European Heritage Days. The app, now available on on both iOS and Android, is the result of a national project "La vita delle opere", conducted by the Ca' Foscari University of Venice and funded by the Ministry of Education, University and Research. The universities of Pisa and Turin are also involved in the project. 

The main goal of the app is to inform visitors of the life that lies behind the works on display. Their story of conservation, criticism, collection and museums; aspects of the history of art that the public often ignore.

The app presents an ‘ID’ of the work, showing 'how it used to be’ and 'where it used to be', through both images and audio. An extensive video section contains the testimonies of those in the museums who took care of the works, both today and in the past. After a busy period of archival research, The Feast in the House of Levi by Paolo Veronese, The Altarpiece of St. Clare by Paolo Veneziano, The Presentation of Maria in the Temple by Tiziano and The Frescoes of the church of Scalzi by Tiepolo, are all now available on the app.

By the end of the year, these histories will also be available: The Tempest by Giorgione, San Girolamo and the devotee by Piero della Francesca, the Polyptychs of Charity by Bellini, the S. Elena and the triumph of the True Cross by Tiepolo.

During European Heritage Days on Saturday 24th (from 10:00am to 1:00pm and from 3:00pm to 6:00pm) and Sunday, September 25 (from 10:00am to 1:00pm), the research group will be available to visitors of the gallery in order to demonstrate how the app can be used.

In the Gallerie dell'Accademia at 3.30pm on Sunday 25th of September, a creative workshop for children between the ages of 8 and 11, entitled ‘Tell me a Story’, will take place in room XX.

Paola Marini, director of the Gallerie dell'Accademia: "We received this project with great enthusiasm as we believe that museums and universities should work together as much as possible, exchanging both knowledge and skills. The Gallery, along with its officials, contributed to the construction of the app through the selection of works in obtaining information for the archives. This new app enhances the digital tools available in the museum, an aspect which we hope to work on again in the future, both for the newer rooms and also the historical ones. In particular, we are convinced that the idea will offer the public a different viewing experience of the museum; one dedicated to a narrow selection of works, to be savored slowly. With this app you can also look behind the scenes in order to understand the past and present of our institution, thus educating the public to our heritage and the crafts that shape the museum."

Michele Bugliesi,
Rector of the Ca’ Foscari University of Venice: "We are very pleased to present this project, promoted by the Ministries of Research and Culture. It is an idea that was born from the field of scientific expertise at Ca’ Foscari, through the history of restoration and art history, and will now come to life in one of the most prestigious museums in Venice. The app we are presenting today is an innovative tool to learn about the lesser-known aspects of works of art. The project is the result of a collaboration that also includes other initiatives such as the Master in Digital Humanities of Ca' Foscari, and one that allows concrete evidence in support of the Ministry of Education - Mibact protocol on cooperation between institutions for the dissemination of knowledge. Ca’ Foscari would like to thank the researchers for their important work, and also the Gallerie dell'Accademia for this fruitful collaboration."

"The narrative structure of the app is designed to help the viewer better understand the object in front of them, looking at details and interpreting the signs that time has left on the material body the work" – explains Chiara Piva, Professor of History of restoration at Ca' Foscari University and coordinator of the team of Ca’ Foscari students that worked on the project. "More than an augmented reality, we think this is a way to multiply the points of view, a sensibility that, once activated, we will use more spontaneously in front of other works. In this way, we propose a different tour from the usual; a few works to digest slowly."

The group of researchers consists of Matilde Cartolari, Valeria Finocchi, Irene Tortolato and Devis Valenti (who worked closely with Paola Marini and Giulio Manieri Elia from the Gallerie dell’Accademia), Diana Ziliotto for archival research, Ornella Salvadori, Chiara Maida, Alfeo Michieletto, Linda Scapin and Vanni Tiozzo for investigations on the history of restoration.

The tool was developed in collaboration with Neosperience (especially Simonetta De Brumatti, Sandro Repetti, Dario Melpignano and Giancarlo Pace).

In Venice, "La vita delle opere" also collaborates with the Ca’ Pesaro Museum of Oriental Art. In Turin, the app will soon be available for the Reggia di Venaria and the Royal Museums. A research team coordinated by Professor Antonella Gioli at the University of Pisa is also involved in the national project, along with a university research group in Turin, coordinated by Professor Maria Beatrice Failla. Maria Elena Colombo is a consultant for the digital element. For more information please visit: