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Treasures from Chatsworth

Treasure of the Week: The Digital Portrait of Laura, Lady Burlington

By Sotheby's
The Devonshire Collection encompasses thousands of objects that have been carefully collected over 500 years. Because of this extraordinary breadth, choosing the 43 pieces that would travel to Sotheby's New York as part of the Treasures from Chatsworth exhibition was a challenging feat. Spotlighted here is contemporary artist Michael Craig-Martin's remarkably unique Digital Portrait of Laura, Lady Burlington.

C hatsworth House has a number of family portraits, each brilliant in its own way. But there is one portrait, in particular, that catches the eye: Michael Craig-Martin's Digital Portrait of Laura, Lady Burlington, 2010.

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Michael Craig-Martin, Digital portrait of Laura, Lady Burlington, 2010. The computerized portrait is live, changing colors every 5 – 15 seconds. The program randomly selects the color and duration of each unique sequence.

The portrait was commissioned by Lord and Lady Burlington, the son and daughter-in-law of the 12th Duke of Devonshire. Lady Burlington notes:

"The Duke and Duchess had kindly suggested that it would be appropriate to have a portrait of me for the collection at Chatsworth and to think of an artist. Michael Craig-Martin was an artist that William and I were aware of and admired. We had met him when he had shown a work in the first curated show at Lismore Castle Arts. William and I went to see a show of Michael's work and were struck by a computerised self-portrait he had exhibited. The portrait was something of like of which neither of us had seen before and William encouraged me to think that it could be interesting to have a different medium to oil paint, given the time we live in."
Laura, Lady Burlington

Learn More About the Changing Face of Portraiture at Chatsworth

Using a black line portrait of Lady Burlington, Craig-Martin's software divides the image into nine different color areas (hair, skin, lips, eyebrows, etc.). A 52" monitor projects the portrait, which is vertically mounted to resemble a typical framed painting. The software changes the color of the image every 5 to 15 seconds, but this is no loop – instead, the software is programmed to randomly select the colors and timing of each sequence, resulting in millions of possible image combinations. The result is truly a sight to behold.

Born in Dublin, Ireland, artist Craig-Martin attended the Yale University School of Art before working as a tutor at Goldsmiths College in London; Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin are just two of the many young artists he taught. His work is found in a number of public collections, including the Irish Museum of Modern Art, New York's Museum of Modern Art, New York, Tate and the Centre Pompidou.

The Digital Portrait from All Angles

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