philip lelyveld The world of entertainment technology


From Brueghel to Warhol: AI enters the attribution fray

d41586-019-01794-3_16776874The computer, says Honig, can pick up “so many more details, so much more easily”. Take windmills: hundreds of pictures featuring them fill her Brueghel database. The algorithm has picked up identical images of the structures in multiple paintings. It can even show when a replica has been flipped. And it has helped to pinpoint exact copies of lions, dogs and other figures. The workshops of many Renaissance artists were co-working spaces, so the computer technique helps Honig to piece together how different artists, in the family or not, might collaborate. “Rubens comes in and does some figures, and then Jan Breughel comes in and does the horses, the dog and the lion, because he’s ‘Mister Animal’,” Honig says. “And so they fit the things together.”

Elsewhere, AI is being harnessed to address a perennial problem of material legacy that underpins art history: deterioration. For instance, the Verus Art system from start-up Arius Technology in Vancouver, Canada, is deploying a 3D scan–print system — initially devised to study damage to Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa — to replicate artworks precisely, down to textured brushstrokes and pigment hues. Intended for education, outreach and archives, the ‘backed-up’ paintings might have another use: foiling thieves more discerning than those fooled by Castelnuovo Magra’s cheap copy.

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