Is it a forgery? Is it a counterfeit Rembrandt? Technically not, when a team consisting of noted university, two famous art museums, a financial company and a computer giant are involved in recreating a Rembrandt painting. The research was conducted by a team from Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands and was supported by the Dutch museums, Mauritshuis and Rembrandthuis, along with ING and Microsoft.
The project, “Next Rembrandt” was created using the latest in computer technology and 3-D printing to create a look-alike painting, down to the brushstrokes of 17th century artist Rembrandt van Rijn. Since most of the Master’s works were portraits, the team focused on a famous portrait. A four-step, eighteen month process was implemented to take the project from a blank canvas to a painted reproduction.
The first step was data collection and a complete analysis of the painter’s work. His entire body of work was studied: color, topics, composition and the like. The team writes,
We examined the entire collection of Rembrandt’s work, studying the contents of his paintings pixel by pixel. To get this data, we analyzed a broad range of materials like high-resolution 3D scans and digital files, which were upscaled by deep learning algorithms to maximize resolution and quality.
The second step was to determine the subject of the painting to be reproduced. The team studied age, demography and other features of Rembrandt’s subjects. It was determined that the portrait should be of a Caucasian male, age 30-40 wearing dark clothes with a white collar, wearing a hat and facing the right.
The third step was to generate the subject’s features, like estimating facial proportions.
Last but not least was to bring the painting to life. The surface texture of existing Rembrandt paintings was used to recreate the artist’s brushstrokes. A 3D printer created the painting using a special paint base UV ink to add layers of texture.
The team writes,
We created a height map using two different algorithms that found texture patterns of canvas surfaces and layers of paint. That information was transferred into height data, allowing us to mimic the brushstrokes used by Rembrandt.
After 347 years, a new Rembrandt painting has been revealed.
Ron Augustus of Microsoft states,
You can say we are using technology and data like Rembrandt used his paints and brushes to create something new.
Makes you wonder if art historians can tell the difference.
For more on this breakthrough, tune in to the Mysterious Universe podcast at https://mysteriousuniverse.org/2016/04/15-13-MU-podcast/