Sensing the Unseen: Step into Gossaert’s ‘Adoration’ was originally developed as an immersive experience in which visitors could explore a high-resolution interactive image of an artwork ‘sonified’ using sound, poetry and light.

The show, which had been specifically tailored for delivery in socially distanced pods, opened in early December but fell victim to fresh Covid restrictions just a week later.

Its new smartphone incarnation enables users to zoom into visual details and even share minute aspects of the painting via Instagram. This new approach is enabling the institution to harness data analysis from the platform in order to boost understanding of how visitors interact with paintings on their phones.

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Sensing the Unseen: Step into Gossaert’s ‘Adoration’, mobile edition With detail from Jan Gossaert (Jean Gossart) The Adoration of the Kings, 1510-15 © The National Gallery, London

The digital experience brings together sound, images, poetry and interactive elements to engage audiences with themes of rupture, transformation and renewal. Poems in the voice of King Balthasar (a character in The Gossaert’s Adoration of the Kings, 1510-15) interpret six scenes from the painting, offering contextualising information while highlighting visual details people may have missed.

Having maximised the resolution of the digital imagery, previously unseen elements reveal the artist’s complex and sophisticated painting techniques – in addition to details deliberately hidden away. This level of immersion into the artwork was made possible by meticulous efforts to rescan the painting by the Gallery’s scientific department last autumn.

Sensing the Unseen: Step into Gossaert’s ‘Adoration’ in its original format has been rescheduled to take place at the National Gallery between 17th May and 13th June 2021. The experimental show has been curated by Dr Susan Foister, the Gallery’s deputy director and curator of early Netherlandish and German paintings.

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