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A New Rembrandt

Can a machine capture an artist’s essential style?

Rembrandt van Rijn died in 1669, but in 2016, the world received a new Rembrandt painting. Through a project called The Next Rembrandt, documented in this video, a team of scientists and art experts in Amsterdam scanned Rembrandt’s works, and then used the data to design and 3-D print a new painting in his iconic style.

From studying the elements of Rembrandt’s paintings, they determined, naturally, that the painting should be a portrait of a Caucasian male wearing a hat. And the finished product certainly looks familiar.


But why create it? As Ron Augustus, director of SMB Markets at Microsoft, puts it in the video, “We are using a lot of data to improve business life, but we haven’t been using data that much in a way that touches the human soul.” The project succeeds in showing how data can create something amazingly similar to the work of a person, not to mention an artistic genius. That said, the experiment doesn’t purport to be a replacement for Rembrandt, and the team behind the painting is careful to avoid the direct comparison.

Still, we can’t say we aren’t curious to see the machine’s version of a Monet, da Vinci, or Warhol. Imagine a gallery full of these new engineered paintings, unique interpretations of each artist’s essential style.

The Next Rembrandt was unveiled in Amsterdam on April 5, and it will soon be on display at a location yet to be announced.