Artworks that vanished during World War II return to Latvia in augmented reality

Jaunauce Palace in Latvia was once home to Baron Theodor Otto von der Ropp’s stellar art collection. Unfortunately, many artworks vanished or were moved during World War II. Holding no illusion that these would ever return in their physical form, the Jaunauce Palace team recruited Overly to bring back pieces from Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, and Bertel Thorvaldsen in augmented reality.


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Project overview

In the 19th century Baron Theodor Otto von der Ropp, who resided in Jaunauce Palace, was a proud owner of one of the most outstanding art collections in the Kurzeme’s province, Latvia. The phenomenal pieces were purchased by his sons, Theodore and Ferdinand, during a study trip to Rome and Paris from 1801 to 1806, and featured 84 paintings by such artists as Raphael and Leonardo da Vinci, as well as sculptures by Bertel Thorvaldsen. Some works were lost during World War II. Others can today be seen in museums across Europe.


To bring back a taste of this world-class collection, we worked with Jaunauce Palace to create a custom-built augmented reality application that features 12 paintings and eight sculptures from the original exhibition. Since Baron Ropp’s family celebrations also took place in the hall of Jaunauce Castle, the mobile app also reveals two historic dances in augmented reality.

No illusions of artworks returning in any other reality than augmented reality

As the Jaunauce Palace team put it themselves: “We have no illusions — in the foreseeable future artworks of such calibre will not be found here.” However, the revelation here is by no means to give in to the physical constraints of the present day but rather to find a way to bypass them. This is where augmented reality lends a helping hand.


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Replacing a static exhibition with multiple AR experiences

With Overly joining the front lines of the artwork comeback from the get go, it was clear that augmented reality would be recruited to reveal the palace’s rich cultural heritage, as well as educate its visitors in a way that a customer of the 21st century expects — via experiences.

While it is a common practice to capitalize on one type of AR experience per exhibition, we went pretty much all out for Jaunauce Palace, offering both marker-based and markerless AR experiences. Twelve artworks come to life in 2D, eight sculptures in 3D, and dancers grace the palace’s hall in two AR video pieces.  The result means more touch points and experiences for visitors, keeping them entertained and enthused to explore more within each of the different augmented reality realms. The visual concept for the exhibition was developed by the talented Daria Melnikova. More on the parties involved here.

*Featured photos courtesy of Jaunauces Pils and Latvijas Lauku forums Facebook pages

Since the exhibition was launched, Jaunauce Palace’s team was selected for the Latvian Rural Forum’s prestigious award “Dižprojekts” in 2020 (translated as “The Great Project” of 2020). 

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