We have a new Rembrandt painting thanks to AI and 3D printing

8 Apr 2016

The Night Watch from Rembrandt at Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam

Rembrandt’s genius died with him. His last painting, Simeon’s Song of Praise, was an unfinished work that signalled the end of the career of the world’s most famous painters ever. Until now.

A team of people from organisations including ING and Microsoft have gotten together to keep the Rembrandts flowing.

Using detailed scans of all of his paintings, deep learning to research bodies of work, AI to work it all out and 3D printing to execute a finale, they have created what they consider a suitable follow-up to Rembrandt van Rijn’s 346 known paintings.

It actually looks pretty good, too.

The Next Rembrandt

The Next Rembrandt

Researching all previous paintings, there were some incredibly common themes that cropped up. This led the team, and AI, to consider a portrait of a caucasian man, aged between 30-40, bearded, wearing a collar and looking just to the right.

Dubbed ‘The Next Rembrandt’, algorithms established particular shapes of eyes, ears and a nose, scaling them to the relevant position on the face. It was 3D printed to the height measurements that were collated from the true paintings.

Using 15Gb of rendered graphics, 148 million pixels were used in the final piece.

“Data is used by many people today to help them be more efficient and knowledgeable about their daily work, and about the decisions they need to make. But in this project it’s also used to make life itself more beautiful. It really touches the human soul,” said Ron Augustus of Microsoft.

It’s a bit of a stretch to attribute ‘the human soul’ to rows of numbers producing a fictionalised work by a man who died almost 350 years ago. Also, boiling down an artist’s entire catalogue of work into ‘white man looking to the right’ is wonderfully underwhelming, but the project is certainly interesting.

Main image of The Night Watch via izamon/Shutterstock

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic