Scientists Create a New Rembrandt Painting, Using a 3D Printer & Data Analysis of Rembrandt’s Body of Work

All of us who saw Juras­sic Park as kids, no mat­ter how much skep­ti­cism we’d pre­co­cious­ly devel­oped, sure­ly spent at least a moment won­der­ing if sci­ence could actu­al­ly bring dinosaurs back to life by pulling the DNA out of their blood trapped in amber-pre­served mos­qui­toes. It turns out that it can’t — at least not yet! — but even so, we had to admit that Steven Spiel­berg and his CGI-savvy col­lab­o­ra­tors (not to men­tion their huge bud­get) achieved, on screen, the next best thing. Even so, peo­ple have long dis­agreed about whether to call the visu­al res­ur­rec­tion of dinosaurs in the ser­vice of a block­buster adven­ture movie a work of art.

But what if we used the even more pow­er­ful data analy­sis and com­put­er graph­ics tech­nol­o­gy now at our dis­pos­al specif­i­cal­ly for the pur­pose of gen­er­at­ing a mas­ter­piece, or at least a piece by a mas­ter — by Rem­brandt, say? A project called The Next Rem­brandt has aimed to do just that with its attempt “to dis­till the artis­tic DNA of Rem­brandt” using every­thing from build­ing and ana­lyz­ing “an exten­sive analy­sis of his paint­ings [ … ] pix­el by pix­el,” to per­form­ing a demo­graph­ic study deter­min­ing his con­clu­sive por­trait sub­ject (“a Cau­casian male with facial hair, between the ages of thir­ty and forty, wear­ing black clothes with a white col­lar and a hat, fac­ing to the right”), to cre­at­ing a height map to mim­ic his phys­i­cal brush strokes.

Next Rembrandt

“You could say that we use tech­nol­o­gy and data like Rem­brandt used his paints and his brush­es to cre­ate some­thing new.” Those bold words come from Ron Augus­tus, Microsoft­’s direc­tor of small- and medi­um-sized busi­ness mar­kets, in the pro­mo­tion­al video at the top of the post. His employ­er acts as one of two part­ners involved in The Next Rem­brandt, the oth­er being the Dutch bank ING — hence, pre­sum­ably, the choice of painter to res­ur­rect. Their com­bined resources have pro­duced a whol­ly the­o­ret­i­cal, but in a phys­i­cal sense very real, new “Rem­brandt” por­trait, metic­u­lous­ly 3D-print­ed at 148 megapix­els in thir­teen lay­ers of paint-based UV ink.

Despite its impres­sive plau­si­bil­i­ty, nobody expects the fruit of the Next Rem­brandt pro­jec­t’s con­sid­er­able labors, unveiled yes­ter­day in Ams­ter­dam, to hang in the Rijksmu­se­um next to The Night Watch. But it can, prop­er­ly con­sid­ered, teach us all a great deal about what, in the words of ING exec­u­tive cre­ative direc­tor Bas Korsten, “made Rem­brandt Rem­brandt.” And like any cut­ting-edge stunt, it also gives us a glimpse into what tech­nol­o­gy will soon­er or lat­er make pos­si­ble for us all. How long could we pos­si­bly have to wait before we can 3D-print, on can­vas with oil paint, por­traits of our­selves as Rem­brandt almost cer­tain­ly would have paint­ed us — or our very own Night Watch, indis­tin­guish­able from the orig­i­nal? Tru­ly, we stand on the cusp of a gold­en age of forgery.

via Metafil­ter

Relat­ed Con­tent:

300+ Etch­ings by Rem­brandt Now Free Online, Thanks to the Mor­gan Library & Muse­um

A Final Wish: Ter­mi­nal­ly Ill Patients Vis­it Rembrandt’s Paint­ings in the Rijksmu­se­um One Last Time

16th-Cen­tu­ry Ams­ter­dam Stun­ning­ly Visu­al­ized with 3D Ani­ma­tion

Flash­mob Recre­ates Rembrandt’s “The Night Watch” in a Dutch Shop­ping Mall

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and style. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer, the video series The City in Cin­e­ma, the crowd­fund­ed jour­nal­ism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Ange­les Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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  • 3dPrint Dude says:

    Wow, there real­ly is no end to what can be done with 3d print­ing. We just start­ed a 3d com­pa­ny, Halo Tech­nolo­gies, and are excit­ed. We’re already explor­ing the pos­si­bil­i­ties of what can be done!

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