A team of data analysts, developers, and art historians have worked together for eighteen months to answer a provocative question: can a great master be brought back to create one more painting? In this case, Rembrandt van Rijn.
The researchers looked at the all 346 paintings by the Dutch painter, analyzing each one pixel by pixel. “There’s a lot of Rembrandt data available—you have this enormous amount of technical data from all these paintings from various collections,” Joris Dik, of Technical University Delft, said on the site. “Can we actually create something out of it that looks like Rembrandt? That’s an appealing question.”
Researchers developed new software that was designed to understand Rembrandt’s style and a facial-recognition algorithm to replicate the style and create new features for their painting.
This data was uploaded to a 3D printer. Researchers ended up printing 13 layers of ink, one on top of the other, to create a painting texture that mimics Rembrandt’s style. The 3D-printed work, which is made up of 148 million pixels, is called “The Next Rembrandt” and was unveiled in Amsterdam this week. Like so many of his paintings, the “new” Rembrandt is a portrait.
Bas Korsten, a lead researcher of the project, told The Guardian that the new painting could never actually replace a Rembrandt. “We are creating something new from his work,” he said. “Only Rembrandt could create a Rembrandt.”
But the project does raise some interesting questions about what is authentic and what is a forgery. Technology can revolutionize the art world by helping to detect forgeries—or helping to create them.
And if you don’t fancy visiting the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam or forking out millions for an original by the Dutch master—a Rembrandt once fetched a record $33.2 million at auction—at the very least there’s now an option to 3D-print one at home.