The authenticity of a portrait of Renoir certified by an algorithm – November 23, 2022 –

Artificial intelligence is increasingly being used to help determine if valuable works of art are real or fake. According to the Guardianthe Zurich start-up Art Recognition has just attributed, thanks to a technology it has developed, a work entitled Portrait of a woman (Gabrielle) to the artist Pierre-Auguste Renoir. The painting, which belongs to a Swiss collector, had its attribution refused by the Wildenstein-Plattner Institute – one of the two institutes which publish a catalog raisonné of the known works of Renoir.

To do this, Art Recognition used photographic reproductions of 206 authenticated paintings by the French Impressionist to teach the algorithm the painter’s style, characterized by broken brushstrokes and bold combinations of complementary colors. To increase accuracy, the company also split the images into small chunks and showed them to the algorithm, while training it on a selection of paintings by similarly styled artists active around the same time as Renoir. Based on this assessment, the algorithm concluded that there was an 80.58% chance that Portrait of a woman (Gabrielle) was painted by Renoir.

Dr. Carina Popovici, CEO of Art Recognition, believes that this ability to quantify the degree of certainty is important. Speaking at a meeting on the use of technology in art business at the Art Loss Register in London, she said: “Art owners are often told by connoisseurs that it is their ‘feeling’ or ‘gut feeling’ that determines whether a painting is authentic or not, which can be very frustrating. They really appreciate the fact that we are more specific”.

Encouraged by this result, the owner of the painting approached another group of experts, Dauberville & Bernheim-Jeune Archiveswhich publishes its own catalog raisonné of the works of Renoir. After requesting a scientific analysis of the painting’s pigments, they also concluded that it was an authentic Renoir.

But the specialists point out that the accuracy of the algorithm is too dependent on the quality of the paints with which it was trained. In the presence of a forgery or a copy, or if areas contain retouching, the degree of certainty would be much lower. British art historian Bendor Grosvenor, known for his rediscoveries of paintings by masters, fears that these technologies will devalue the contribution of experts in assessing the authenticity of a work of art. “The technology is particularly weak due to its inability to take into account the condition of a paint. Many old master paintings are damaged and disfigured by layers of dirt and overpaint that make it difficult to discern what is original and what is not”he also added.

“Portrait of a Woman (Gabrielle)”, attributed with an 80% chance to Pierre-Auguste Renoir by an artificial intelligence developed by Art Recognition.  © Art Recognition

Portrait of a woman (Gabrielle)attributed with an 80% chance to Pierre-Auguste Renoir by an artificial intelligence developed by Art Recognition.

© Art Recognition

Carina Popovici agrees that the quality of the training data is important, assuring that her company only used photographs of authentic works of art.

“We sincerely want to give the possibility [aux connaisseurs] to use this system to help them make a decision, perhaps in cases where they are not so sure. But for that to happen, they need to be open to this technology.” she explained. So far, Art Recognition has trained its AI to recognize 300 artists, mostly French Impressionists and Old Masters. A month ago, the start-up had announcement having determined that the only Titian held in Switzerland – a work entitled Evening landscape with couple (1518-1520), belonging to the Kunsthaus in Zurich – was probably not painted by the Venetian artist.

Julian Radcliffe, president of the Art Loss Register, which manages the world’s largest private database of stolen works of art, antiques and collectibles, agrees: “Artificial intelligence […] must be combined with the expertise of specialist connoisseurs of the artist, with a science of pigment analysis, and with the determination of the origin of the work. Its advantage lies in its ability to give yes or no answers. […] and to constantly improve, but his work must be interpreted by a human who must ask the right question”.

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The authenticity of a portrait of Renoir certified by an algorithm – November 23, 2022 –

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