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Recon­struc­tion of a selfportrait

Devel­op­ing a 3-​dimensional ver­sion of the paint­ing “Self­por­trait with grey filt hat” by Vin­cent van Gogh, took exten­sive preparation.

To start with, the world famous bal­loon man­u­fac­turer Don Cameron was given an instruc­tive tour of the Van Gogh museum in Ams­ter­dam by Prof. Dr. Louis van Tilborgh, with spe­cial atten­tion to the colours that Van Gogh used and his unique touch of the brush.

A study was made of Van Gogh’s scull mea­sure­ments by com­par­ing pho­to­graphic mate­r­ial with por­traits found in the museum. Using a dig­i­tal photo of the famous self­por­trait pro­vided by the museum, a recon­struc­tion was pre­pared of those parts of Van Gogh’s head which he never painted: the right side of his face and the back of his head.

A por­trait in the pas­tels of Van Gogh, painted by Henri de Toulouse-​Lautrec in 1887, was also used for the back of the head.

By the com­put­ers at Cameron in Bristol/​England, the 2-​dimensional por­trait was made into a 3-​dimensional plas­ter cast and Van Gogh’s unique brush strokes were copied onto the blank parts of his head.

Tech­ni­cal details

The Van Gogh bal­loon is com­posed of more than a thou­sand parts of spe­cial bal­loon­cloth, almost 2000 run­ning meters of mate­r­ial, onto which the computer-​directed laser­printer “painted” van Gogh’s selfportrait.

To bring the shape of the face as life­like as pos­si­ble into the bal­loon, dozens of diaphragms are used on the inside to hold nos­trils, eye­balls, ears and beard in place. To safely land this art­work, a so called SMART valve and two rota­tions vents are used, hid­ing from sight in the hair and on the back of the head under the hat. These make sure that Van Gogh will not land on his nose.

The hot-​air bal­loon has a vol­ume of approx. 4000 m3 and, filled with air, weighs almost 4000 kgs. The hat with rim is com­posed of over 800 parts and has a diam­e­ter of 23 meters. The total height of the bal­loon is approx. 30 meters.


Vin­cent van Gogh Ballon

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