Facial technology reveals Madonna & Child painting likely by Raphael
Facial recognition technology reveals that the faces in the de Brécy Tondo were almost certainly painted by Raphael.
Researchers from the University of Bradford and the University of Nottingham used facial recognition technology and believe that Italian Renaissance painter Raphael is highly likely to have painted the de Brécy Tondo.
The faces of the Madonna and child in the de Brécy Tondo were found by researchers to be identical to ones in the Raphael altarpiece Sistine Madonna.
In both masterpieces, digital image analysis and comparison of the figures found the facial features of the Madonnas to be 97% identical and the facial features of the child to be 86% identical.
These figures indicate a “very high statistical probability the artworks are by identical creators," honorary research fellow from the University of Nottingham, Dr. Christopher Brooke, a digital image analysis expert, told the BBC.
Brooke co-authored a research paper about the discovery with University of Bradford visual computing professor Hassan Ugail, molecular spectroscopy professor Howell Edwards, and Timothy Benoy, an art researcher and honorary secretary of the de Brécy Trust.
The paper was presented in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, at an international conference and is expected to be published later this month.
Professor Hassan Ugail developed the artificial intelligence facial recognition system which can detect patterns in photos at a significant higher level of accuracy than the human eye.
A previous research on the pigments used was done in 2004, and the new facial recognition analysis of the de Brécy Tondo painting could give additional credence to this research. Molecular analysis by professor Howell Edwards showed the pigments in the painting to be typical of the early pre-1700 Renaissance period, which makes it unlikely to be a Victorian copy.
“This is an exciting piece of work that promises much for the future examination of works of art,” Brooke told the BBC.
In 1981, the de Brécy Tondo was bought by the businessman and art collector George Lester Winward. Two years before his death, Windward set up de Brécy Trust in 1995 in order to preserve his art collection and make the items available for further study.
Research on the painting is three and half decades old. A case study for a Liverpool University PhD by Murdoch Lothian was done in 1991.
In 2000, the De Brécy Tondo was first described as a “possible Raphael” by UK conservator Harriet Owen Hughes.