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AI officially employed to attribute a painting to an artist
DukeRem
The de Brécy Tondo, a circular painting by an unknown artist, has been the subject of much historical research and examination over the past 40 years. Despite this, no one has been able to conclusively link it to the famous artist Raphael, till now. However, a recent research conducted by Professor Hassan Ugail, Director of the Centre of Visual Computing at the University of Bradford, has employed artificial intelligence-assisted computer-based facial recognition to compare the Tondo to The Sistine Madonna, by Raphael. The results of the study revealed that the faces of the Madonnas as well as those of the Child are an exact match and considered virtually identical. The de Brécy Tondo is a painting with a history shrouded in mystery and intrigue. Purchased from a country house sale at Leeswood Hall in northeast Wales, the Tondo was discovered to have ties to the court of Queen Henrietta Maria, wife of King Charles I. Infrared examination of the painting's reverse flap of canvas revealed a monogram that matched the personal monogram of Queen Henrietta Maria. Leading Raphael scholar, the Professor Dr Jurg Meyer zur Capellen of Münster University, believed that the Tondo may have been produced in Rome and presented to Henrietta Maria by the Vatican, though he was not convinced that it was by Raphael himself. The late Raphael scholar, Dr Murdoch Lothian, studied the Tondo for his 1991 PhD and concluded that it pre-dated the Sistine Madonna and that the two paintings were likely to be by the same artist, with the Tondo serving as a model for the latter. Previous techniques, including X-ray analysis, had already determined that the Tondo pre-dated Raphael's Sistine Madonna. The de Brécy Trust, which owns 30 works of art, recently enlisted the help of Professor Hassan Ugail to investigate the Tondo further. Professor Ugail, an expert in artificial intelligence-assisted computer-based facial recognition, has previously worked with organizations such as Bellingcat, the New York Times, the Daily Mirror and the BBC. He has also led research on developing a method of ageing facial images, which could assist in the search for long-term missing people. As part of this project, Professor Ugail and his team have progressed images of missing people, Ben Needham and Madeleine McCann. It is clear that there is still much to be uncovered about the Tondo, but with the help of cutting-edge technology and the expertise of individuals like Professor Ugail, we may be closer to uncovering the truth about this mysterious painting and its ties to the court of Queen Henrietta Maria. Ahead of the publication of a peer-reviewed paper on the research, Professor Ugail stated, "The forensic facial comparison study we have conducted has confirmed the faces in the de Brécy Madonna and Child and those in the Sistine Madonna are identical. Looking at the faces with the human eye shows an obvious similarity, but the computer can see far more deeply than we can, in thousands of dimensions, up to a pixel level. Based on the high evaluation of this analysis, together with previous research, my fellow co-authors and I have concluded identical models were used for both paintings and they are undoubtedly by the same artist." This new research adds further weight to previous work conducted by another University of Bradford academic, Howell Edwards, Emeritus Professor of Molecular Spectroscopy, who found that pigments contained in the Tondo were consistent with early, pre-1700 Renaissance work. Professor Edwards, an honorary scientific adviser to the de Brécy Trust, said, "Our earlier Raman spectroscopic analyses of the pigments which placed the Tondo painting firmly in the 16th - 17th Century and dispelled the idea that it was a Victorian copy has been further vindicated by the facial recognition analysis of the Madonna and Child subjects and their very close similarity to those of Raphael’s Sistine Madonna." The Tondo was bought in 1981 by Cheshire businessman George Lester Winward, who built up a collection of art spanning from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century. In 1995, two years before he died, Winward set up the de Brécy Trust Collection, named after his French ancestors, in order to preserve his collection of paintings and drawings and make them available to art scholars for study. The academic paper, authored by Professors Ugail, Edwards, and Brooke and Timothy Benoy, was presented at the International Conference SKIMA2022, at Cambodia University of Technology and Science, in Phnom Penh, on Saturday, 3rd December and is due to be published later this month. Professor Ugail has used millions of faces to train an algorithm to recognise and compare facial features in thousands of dimensions. A similarity above 75 per cent is considered identical. The similarity between the Madonnas was found to be 97 per cent, while a comparison of the Child in both paintings produced an 86 per cent similarity. Professor Ugail said, “Facial recognition technology can be applied for a variety of purposes, including analysis of art and even to healthcare. Using it in this way, to determine the similarity of portraits in paintings is yet another example of its wide-ranging potential of artificial intelligence-assisted computer vision.” This new research not only confirms the Raphael attribution of the Tondo but also illustrates the increasing value of scientific evidence in the attribution of a painting. The de Brécy Trust is thrilled with this new scientific evidence and is excited to see the potential of artificial intelligence in the art world.