Closer to Johannes Vermeer

For the Rijksmuseum, we devised and created an online experience with our ultra-res storytelling tool Micrio for the large retrospective exhibition on Johannes Vermeer, through which his works can be experienced down to the smallest detail.

In 2023, the Rijksmuseum put the largest number of Vermeer paintings ever on display. Especially for this retrospective, we made a high-quality online exhibition of all Vermeer works with the museum and design partner Fabrique, narrated by Stephen Fry. That same year, the interactive was honored with two Webby Awards, the most important internet award in the world, a European Design Award, a Dutch Interactive Award, two Grand Prix Content Marketing Awards, two Dutch Creativity Awards plus five European Lovie Awards.

"This is one of the best virtual exhibitions I have ever seen, and I have seen a lot of them."

The History Blog

Virtual exhibition
To support the largest Vermeer overview ever, the Rijksmuseum also wanted to develop a virtual exhibition, comparable to the interactive web experience we had previously created around Rembrandt's Night Watch. The online exploration of Vermeer's work and life should be just as impressive as the exhibition in the museum. And all this within the existing Rijksmuseum website that we built two years earlier. A perfect job for our ultra-resolution storytelling tool Micrio!

More Vermeers online than in the museum
In other experiences, such as Garden of Earthly Delights, we have always focused on one individual work. After an initial feasibility study, we opted for an overview for this purpose of Closer to Johannes Vermeer. Vermeer left behind a remarkably small oeuvre. There are only 37 works known from him. Tranquil, introverted scenes full of convincing illusionism. The Vermeer special shows all these 37 paintings in hi-res images. In addition to the 28 works in the exhibition, the other nine paintings attributed to Vermeer are also included. So, more Vermeers can be admired online than in the museum itself!

Ultra-res photos
The 37 paintings in the Vermeer experience are all placed next to each other in the visitor's web browser. Several paintings can be viewed at an ultra high resolution of 5 microns (digitization resolution). That is as detailed as the photo of The Night Watch that the Rijksmuseum published earlier. As a result, paintings by Vermeer can also be zoomed in so far that the minute pigment particles in the paint become razor-sharp. And all without compromising performance, not even on mobile.

Closer to Johannes Vermeer

Online tours by Stephen Fry and Joy Delima
The online exhibition uses movement and specific cut-outs to juxtapose the paintings in different ways, allowing visitors to discover the painter's themes. Recurring objects such as pearls, curtains, wall maps, but also the same incidence of light come to the fore. In addition, you will also discover the different emotions of stillness and wonder in the groups of paintings. From the first moment, the movement provides a telling story, in which the user interface quickly fades into the background. You can wander through the virtual exhibition yourself or let yourself be guided by the British actor Stephen Fry and the Dutch actress Joy Delima, who have recorded the English and Dutch tour respectively. For each painting they tell a story full of details and interesting facts.

Do it yourself
Visitors can also compare paintings themselves, look for similarities and details in Vermeer's work and thus create and share their own Vermeer story. We have made it possible to effortlessly arrange the grid with the 37 paintings or to create your own collection. All by fully investing in the most powerful features of our Micrio viewer.

The Vermeer interactive won two Webby Awards in 2023, also known as the 'Oscars of the internet'. Among 14,000 submitted projects from more than 70 countries, the jury judged Closer to Johannes Vermeer as the best in the categories 'Websites - Cultural Institutions' and 'Virtual experiences - Arts, Fashion, Retail & Culture'. In the same year, the project also won a gold European Design Award as best in the Digital category, plus a gold Dutch Interactive Award in the Content category. The jury of the DIA praised the innovation and implementation of this project.

"This case really excels in this category. It uses technology in an innovative way in an industry where this is not common. The case adds a lot because it transcends the exhibition and has a lasting character. [...] It is a case that is not only fantastically executed, but also has had a lot of impact with an average time on site of no less than 12 minutes and returning visitors."

Jury report Dutch Interactive Awards 2023

Even more awards
In 2023, the Vermeer experience also received two Grand Prix Content Marketing Awards in the Content Design and Platform/Content Hub categories, two Dutch Creativity Awards (Lamps) in the Digital Services and Digital Craft (UI/UX) categories, plus five Lovie Awards, the European varaint of the Webby's: the public vote and bronze jury prize in the category Websites & Mobile Sites: Best Navigation & Structure, the bronze jury prize in the category Marketing, Advertising & PR: Best Multimedia Storytelling and the public vote and gold jury prize in the category Websites & Mobile Sites: Best User Experience.

"It really feels like an extension of the real-life exhibition and you want to keep exploring the artworks of Johannes Vermeer digitally. To be able to zoom in to a level that the minute pigment particles in the paint become razor-sharp adds a big value as it solves the problem of not being able to do such a thing in physical experience."

Jury report Dutch Creativity Awards 2023