Beyond Scrolls & Screens

February 2020 | By Christine Sugrue, Google Arts & Culture Lab

Discover extraordinary details in Japanese scrolls and screens thanks to Machine Learning.

This new experiment is making use of machine learning to discover extraordinary details in some of the most famous Japanese screens and scrolls from different eras. This journey from one beautiful detail to another within Japanese masterpieces is a new way to understand why screens and scrolls from Japan are one of the most celebrated art forms worldwide. 
The incredible screens from the collections of Tokyo National Museum, Tokyo Fuji Art Museum, and Tachibana Museum have been captured in super high resolution, including one scroll that’s 12 meters in length, with details sometimes invisible to the naked eye, using Google Arts & Culture Art camera.

Japanese narrative scrolls and folding screens are rich with beautiful details and have a very particular place in the history of visual storytelling, depicting all types of stories, from epic romances to political commentary as well as stories of the supernatural world! For many, they had a great influence on manga. We used machine learning to help find details and connections between multiple scrolls and screens, some that are 600 years apart. Let’s embark on a journey of similarity - and discover the ways these images are connected!