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This 3D-printed Rembrandt is the new frontier in forgery

A new Rembrandt painting was unveiled today in Amsterdam. But the portrait wasn’t exactly made by the 17th century Dutch master; it was created with 3D printers by a team of data analysts, developers, and art historians, The Guardian reports.

“A fascinating exercise in connoisseurship.”

The painting, called “the Next Rembrandt,” was developed by the Amsterdam-based advertising agency J Walter Thompson for its client ING Bank, and took 18 months to create. To reproduce Rembrandt’s painting style and brushstrokes, a unique software and facial recognition algorithm were used to analyze digital representations of all of his 346 known paintings. The data was then fed to a 3D printer, which released 13 layers of paint-based UV ink onto a canvas to recreate the painting texture similar to a real Rembrandt. The final artwork, which was realized also with help from Microsoft, is made of more than 148 million pixels.

Bas Korsten, the advertising agency’s executive creative director, told The Guardian that the goal of the project was not to create an actual Rembrandt painting, but to start a conversation about how data and technology can be included into art. Some art lovers criticized the project, Korsten said, but others, including art historians from the Mauritshuis in The Hague and the Rembrandt House Museum in Amsterdam, were enthusiastic about it and provided help.

“There’s a lot of Rembrandt data available — you have this enormous amount of technical data from all these paintings from various collections,” says Professor Joris Dik, who led the Delft University of Technology team in the project. “And can you actually create something out of it that looks like Rembrandt? That’s an appealing question.”

Art historian Gary Schwartz also had a positive opinion of the painting. It’s “a fascinating exercise in connoisseurship,” he told The Guardian. “The developers deserve credit for setting themselves to identify the features that make a Rembrandt a Rembrandt.”


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