Researchers used CWI’s FleX-ray scanner to examine an image from the Rijksmuseum and discovered the artist’s features.

Can you determine the characteristics of the artist of a 280-year-old sculpture? Dzemila Sero, former postdoc at CWI (now Migelien Gerritzen Fellow at the Rijksmuseum) proved that this is possible. She did so with a team of researchers from Center for Mathematics & Computer Science, the Rijksmuseum and Cambridge University. They examined the terracotta sculpture “Study for a Hovering Putto” from the Rijksmuseum’s permanent collection, attributed to Laurent Delvaux (1696 – 1778). To obtain preserved prints on the image, the researchers used the computer tomography apparatus in the FleX-ray Lab. The results were published in Science Advances (open access) in an article titled“Artist profiling using micro-CT scanning of a Rijksmuseum terracotta sculpture.”

Sero and her colleagues developed a technique to obtain preserved fingerprints and tool marks on the visible surface and inside the image using 3D micro Computed Tomography, and methods to quantitatively characterize these impressions. Based on combined archaeological and forensic research, the authors estimate that the fingerprints of this particular artwork belong to an adult male. Combined with technical, stylistic and art-historical information, their approach could make it easier to distinguish human fingerprints from tool marks, especially when only a small portion of them are left behind.

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