3D-printed Rembrandt painting looks almost as good as the real thing

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Bringing us one step closer to the day when computers compete directly with humans in the arts, a new painting has been created using software to mimic the style of a master.

The painting, titled “The Next Rembrandt” (below), is the result of a team of developers who, with the technical support of Microsoft and backing from Dutch bank ING, sought to create an original new work “by Rembrandt” using data from his existing paintings.

“When you want to make a new painting you have some idea of how it’s going to look,” said Ben Haanstra, a part of the developer team, in a press statement. “But in our case we started from basically nothing — we had to create a whole painting using just data from Rembrandt’s paintings.”

3-d printed rembrandt

The final 3D printed rembrandt painting.

In order to produce the most accurate painting mimicking Rembrandt, developers created a facial recognition algorithm that identified the most common patterns used by the artist.

To organize the data pool from which the painting was 3D-printed, the team looked primarily at the artist’s portraits, which limited the selection of work created to a time period between 1632 and 1642. Overall, 346 paintings were studied.

Rembrandt paintings

Some of the Rembrandt paintings used as references to create the final painting.

Image: The Next Rembrandt

Using the software analysis, the team found that the richest data in terms of Rembrandt’s visual demographics involved a white male, between the ages of 30 and 40, facing right, with facial hair, black clothes and a hat.

Creating the image took over 500 hours of rendering and ended up outputting 150 gigabytes of digitally rendered graphics composed of 148 million pixels.

The next Rembrandt unveiling

The unveiling of “The Next Rembrandt” in Amsterdam.

Image: The Next Rembrandt

The 3D printing aspect was particularly important to making a convincing painting. Using the data drawn from past works, the team was able to create a height map and replicate the three-dimensionality of the layers of paint and brush strokes typical of Rembrandt’s paintings.

“We looked at a number of Rembrandt paintings, and we scanned their surface texture, their elemental composition, and what kinds of pigments were used,” said Joris Dik, another member of the team from Technical University Delft, said in a statement. “That’s the kind of information you need if you want to generate a painting by Rembrandt virtually.”

At first glance, the image is incredibly accurate in terms of duplicating the overall feel of a Rembrandt. And while it’s difficult to discern all the details based on online images, the image appears to lack the human imperfections you might expect in a real Rembrandt. It just looks a little too smooth. Nevertheless, the end result is remarkable.

The painting was officially unveiled in Amsterdam on Tuesday and will be soon on public display at a yet-to-be-determined location.

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Image: The Next Rembrandt