Emilie Gordenker, the director of the Mauritshuis museum in The Hague, believes that new technologies won’t be able to solve problems of attribution so easily by themselves, as their data still need to be interpreted. These kinds of advances, she added, have a tendency to uncover a whole new set of questions, potentially raising doubts about heretofore attributed paintings.
“In a sense, these things have complicated the process,” Gordenker said. “The more tech you throw at it, the more complicated—and also the more interesting—it becomes.”
“We haven’t solved the problem of attribution,” Steven Frank said, adding that A-Eye is still very much a work in progress. “We definitely aren’t looking to monetize the technology—we hope lots of people use it and do great things with it. What we’d like to do next is to see if our system can identify areas of a single painting that may have been painted by different artists.” (Coincidentally, Den Leeuw cited the task of identifying various different hands in a single work and tracing them through other paintings as an exciting potential use for AI in art authentication.)
This isn’t the first time AI has been used to analyze Rembrandt’s oeuvre, either. In 2016, an advertising firm in Amsterdam unveiled
“The Next Rembrandt,” a 3D-printed painting of a middle-aged man in a lace collar and black hat, the result of an AI project that involved feeding a computer data from hundreds of paintings. The computer processed the data in order to create the new painting, which, at first glance, resembled a Rembrandt portrait. Although the project’s creators maintained that the new technology was not a means of creating a forgery—which, as they were the first to admit, would be immediately detected—they hoped it might be helpful in aiding restoration work. (Rembrandt experts were unamused.)
Andrea Frank noted that after Rembrandt, she and Steven hope to tackle the works of
. But authenticators need not worry about their jobs just yet. Like infrared reflectography and other forms of non-invasive imaging, AI is just another tool to add to their kit.