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Coolest Art Nerds Ever Taught a Computer to Create a Rembrandt

This painting below looks almost exactly like the work of the famous Dutch painter Rembrandt, and as far as science and mathematics is concerned, it is a Rembrandt. But instead of oils and brushes, researchers from Microsoft and other organizations used data points and 3D printing.

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Illustration for article titled Coolest Art Nerds Ever Taught a Computer to Create a Rembrandt

To create this new Rembrandt, the team meticulously scrutinized 346 Rembrandt masterpieces to get a sense of not only the painter’s style, but types of subjects, positions, facial features, and typical outfits. After analyzing these paintings down to the very pixel, they determined that their new Rembrandt should be a portrait of “a caucasian male with facial hair between 30 or 40 years old in dark clothing and a collar wearing a hat with his face pointing to the right,” according to the video below.

With that framework in mind, influenced by a huge database built with statistical analysis and algorithms analyzing Rembrandt’s technique, the team set to work comparing single features, like an eyeball or the slight tilt of the head. To add a 3D dimension—after all, paintings are layers upon layers of paint—a height map created the final painting using a 3D printer.

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Essentially, this painting is what you’d get if you mixed together almost every Rembrandt portrait to create one single painting, and the result is impressively realistic. But this Rembrandt, while a testament to the work of a genius, also denies the common idea that data analysis is meant only for business analytics or weird lab experiments. Just like a paint brush, in the right hands it can make a masterpiece.

[Next Rembrandt via Kottke]

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DISCUSSION

That generated image... its eyes are wrong... very wrong. Unless the subject had an orbital fracture. Its chin is also two different chins, instead of the more visible one being different because of perspective, it is actually a different chin. One is a “strong” wide chin (the one facing towards the viewer) the other is a longer narrower chin.

To my untrained eye, this does not look like a Rembrandt, he gets perspective correct... the resultant image looks, to me, unsettling.