Can technology and data bring back to life one of the greatest painters of all time?

The Next Rembrandt is unveiled today in Amsterdam, a new painting created from historical Rembrandt data.

05 APRIL 2016, AMSTERDAM, 5 APRIL 2016, 11.00CET
This morning, The Next Rembrandt has been unveiled in Amsterdam: a 3D printed painting, made solely from data of Rembrandt’s body of work. Thus bringing the Master of Light and Shadow back to life to create one more painting. Only this time, data is the painter, and technology the brush.

At 10.00 CET on 5 April, a portrait of a man in black 17th-century clothing with a white collar and a hat has been unveiled in front of a packed auditorium. The painting was created using data from Rembrandt’s total body of work using deep learning algorithms and facial recognition techniques. The portrait consists of over 148 million pixels, based on 168,263 painting fragments from Rembrandt’s oeuvre.

Blurring the boundaries between art and technology, this artwork is intended to fuel the conversation about the relationship between art and algorithms, between data and human design and between technology and emotion.

The story behind this unique painting is explained in full detail on After the launch, The Next Rembrandt will be on public display in a location that will be disclosed in a later phase.

Quotes and campaign assets can be found at the bottom of this website.

More information

Rembrandt van Rijn (15 July 1606 - 4 October 1669) is considered one of the world’s greatest painters and a key figure in Dutch history, representing the Golden Age of painting in the Netherlands. A prolific artist, he produced 346 paintings that we know of, as well as numerous drawings and etchings. Rembrandt continued creating art right up to his death in 1669.

The process

The portrait was created through a highly detailed and complex process (involving a team of data scientists, developers, engineers and Rembrandt experts) which took over 18 months and resulting in 150 gigabytes of digitally rendered graphics. The project is a cooperation between presenting partner ING Bank, advertising agency J. Walter Thompson Amsterdam, supporting partner Microsoft and advisors from Delft University of Technology (TU Delft), The Mauritshuis and Museum Het Rembrandthuis.

It all started with the data. The first step to making The Next Rembrandt, was analyzing all 346 of Rembrandt’s paintings using high resolution 3D scans and digital files, which were upscaled by a deep learning algorithm. Supporting partner Microsoft contributed their cloud platform Azure to host and analyze this data, which formed the basis for The Next Rembrandt.

Then came determining the subject. The majority of Rembrandt’s entire collection is made up of portraits, which is also the most consistent subject.

Together with Rembrandt experts the demographic segmentation of the people in these portraits was defined. Ending up with the subject: a portrait of a Caucasian male between the age of thirty and forty, with facial hair, wearing black clothes with a white collar and a hat, facing to the right.

After this, the subject’s features were generated in the style of Rembrandt. A software system was designed that could understand Rembrandt based on his use of geometry, composition, and painting materials. A facial recognition algorithm identified and classified the most typical geometric patterns used by Rembrandt to paint human features. It then used the learned principles to replicate the style and generate new facial features for the painting.

Next, these individual features were assembled into a fully formed face and bust according to Rembrandt’s use of proportions. When the 2D version of the painting was ready depth and texture were added. With the help of TU Delft, a height map was created to identify patterns on the surface of canvases. By transforming pixel data into height data, the computer could mimic the brushstrokes used by Rembrandt.

Finally, to bring the painting to life, an advanced 3D printer that is specially designed to make high end reproductions of existing artwork was used. In the end, 13 layers of UV-ink were printed, one on top of the other, to create a realistic painting texture.

All this has resulted in a work of art that portrays the power and the beauty of data and technology and that will fuel the conversation about where innovation can take us.

The team

ING is one of the most innovative financial institutions in the world. Every day they reimagine new and relevant possibilities for their clients to stay a step ahead in life and business.

Now ING wants to bring this innovative spirit to their sponsorship of Dutch art and cultural icons.

With that brief they approached their advertising agency J. Walter Thompson Amsterdam. The outcome was an idea that pushes the imagination of what data and technology are capable of creating.

With data marking the fourth industrial revolution, Microsoft is looking for opportunities to show the power of data for businesses and individuals. They found this in The Next Rembrandt. Microsoft supported on data handling and data analysis with their Azure platform. This platform, which supports different developer languages, was needed for maximum calculating power.

Rembrandt experts from The Mauritshuis in The Hague (the museum where Rembrandt’s last painting is exhibited) and Museum Het Rembrandthuis in Amsterdam advised on aspects of Rembrandt’s life and painting style.

TU Delft is a leading institution when it comes to reproductions of paintings. The university assisted with bringing the painting to life by advising on Rembrandt’s brush stroke style and gloss mapping. They also supplied height maps and high resolution 3D scans to make the file ready for 3D printing.

"“The Next Rembrandt is a fascinating exercise in connoisseurship. The developers deserve credit for setting themselves to identify the features that make a Rembrandt a Rembrandt. That the application of computer technology allows the results of their research to be digitized, printed in 3D and further refined adds a new tool to the instruments of the connoisseur. While no one will claim that Rembrandt can be reduced to an algorithm, this technique offers an opportunity to test your own ideas about his paintings in concrete, visual form.”" Gary Schwartz, Art Historian, author of a.o. ‘Rembrandt’s Universe’`
"“ING is always looking for innovations that empower people in their daily lives. This project is about bringing that innovative spirit to one of our main sponsorships, that of Dutch art and culture. We want to make technology relevant and learn more about one of the greatest Dutch painters of all time: Rembrandt.”" Tjitske Benedictus , Head of Sponsoring ING
"“When we embarked on this journey, we didn’t know the outcome. Can you teach a computer how to paint like Rembrandt? Can you distil Rembrandt’s artistic DNA to create new art? All I can say about the outcome is that I see a person. Not a computer image. For me it shows that this marriage between data and art is still in the honeymoon stage.”" Bas Korsten, Executive Creative Director J. Walter Thompson Amsterdam
"“There’s a lot of Rembrandt data available — you have this enormous amount of technical data from all these paintings from various collections. And can we actually create something out of it that looks like Rembrandt? That’s an appealing question.” " Professor Joris Dik, Technical University Delft
"“This project shows a spark of the possibilities of intelligent data. Data is the new electricity, it has huge potential to help people and companies to achieve more. The project brings together my true passions: the way companies can grow efficiently by the use of technology and my background in art history. It is not often that these two worlds come together.”" Ron Augustus, Director SMB Markets, Microsoft