The entire work took 18 months to complete, and is a curious commentary on the use of data and computer science to produce a work evocative of the emotion and sensitivity we’d like to think only humans possess.
The portrait itself is a true original — while it may look like it came out of Rembrandt’s workshop (and in a way, it did), the painter never created anything of this likeness during his lifetime. “We really wanted to understand what makes a face look like a Rembrandt,” Emmanuel Flores, director of technology for the project, told the BBC. This meant the tireless analysis of over 300 paintings, which gave way to an algorithm that would emulate the classic Rembrandt style. The information was finally sent to a 3D printer, which utilized 13 layers of paint-based UV ink to create the final work.
Bas Korsten, the advertising executive who came up with the idea, noted that skeptics abounded when he first pitched the concept. “The idea was greeted with a lot of disbelief and skepticism,” he said. “Also coming up with the idea is one thing, bringing it to life is another.”
A veritable army of experts contributed to the massive effort, including scientists, developers, engineers, and art historians from organizations like Microsoft, Delft University of Technology, the Mauritshuis in The Hague, and the Rembrandt House Museum in Amsterdam. But the finished product is something to be proud of.
Ultimately, Korsten says, the process was about “getting to know more about Rembrandt and what made Rembrandt Rembrandt.” And while we may never be able to bring the genius back to life, it looks like we might have found a way to make him immortal.
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