The great thing about new technology is not always about the technology itself, it’s also the applications that can be found for it.

Facial recognition software, used to identify criminals, is going to be applied to historic portrait paintings. Who are the sitters for paintings such as Vermeer’s ‘Girl with The Pearl Earring’ or Leonardo’s ‘Mona Lisa’?

    • Historically the sitters were probably important people,  from amongst the noble families, who, when they fell on hard times, sold off the family art.
    • Identifying them could do much to inform and enrich our knowledge and understanding of society, politics and religion of the times.
    • The technology will have to deal with the 2D challenge of the portraits and the simple fact that a portrait is not a photographic image, the brain works in a different way with art to reveal facial images that we recognize, so a computer is going to have to work very hard indeed.
    • The methodology will be built up over time, using known portraits and sitters and then using the death masks of people they have portraits of  and so on
    • Scientists and art historians will work together to try and reveal previously unknown connections between people

The aim is for the project, named FACES, for Face, Art and Computerized Evaluation to develop a website where the results of the project can be appraised.

The technology may well also be applied to looking at historical buildings and even hand writing on very old scripts, whose origin is unknown.

It may even be possible at some time in the future to use the technology on family photos of unknown ancestors.

All very revealing….

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