Most people are probably familiar with medieval gilded artwork, especially miniature paintings in books of hours such as "Les Très Riches Heures", but
most have likely only seen photographs which cannot give any impression of the effects of light on the gilding. On the rare occasions that people do witness
such artwork in person, they often react powerfully to the beauty of this type of art. The general public perception of medieval art would likely change considerably if more
people could see what it actually looks like.
The Medieval History Database is developing a WebGL-based method to display lighting effects on gilded surfaces or other light-sensitive materials such as
egg tempera paint on polished gesso, which was another typical medieval technique which does not translate well in photographs.
WebGL is a system that allows normal computer software to run inside a web browser. Hence a user on this website will be able to use a WebGL window to
browse a database of scanned manuscripts and other artwork and view them in 3D with rendered lighting effects.
The videos below demonstrate some of the software's rendering effects :
Some sample screenshots:
Among the features that have already been implemented:
• Glow (or "bloom") as a post-processing effect, which makes the gilded surface seem to shine.
• Multiple types of gilding or other surface materials - e.g. both gold and silver leaf on the same page, or gold leaf and gold paint, etc.
Planned features include:
• An option allowing the user to change the light source : e.g. switching to a candle to provide a flickering
glow similar to what the people of the time would have used, or a window letting light in, either normal glass or stained glass. This provides a better indication
of the original effect in the medieval period itself, and changes the appearance of the gilding substantially.
• An option to display historical information about each item.
• The ability to turn pages in manuscripts so that the glow effect shifts as the page curves and rotates.
• An option to 'clean up' the image so that it looks more similar to what the original may have looked like before the ravages of time set in.