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Proceedings Paper

Painted or printed? Correlation analysis of the brickwork in Jan van der Heyden's View of Oudezijds Voorburgwal with the Oude Kerke in Amsterdam
Author(s): David G. Stork; Sean Meador; Petria Nobel
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Paper Abstract

The title painting, in the Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis in The Hague, is remarkable in that every figure and every part of every building is clearly discernible in the minutest detail: decorations, weathercock, bells in the church tower, and so on. Thousands of individual bricks are visible in the buildings at the left and the question has been posed by art scholars as to whether these bricks were laboriously painted individually or instead more efficiently pressed to the painting by some form of template, for instance by pressing a wet print against the painting. Close inspection of the painting in raking light reveals that the mortar work is rendered in thick, protruding paint, but such visual analysis, while highly suggestive, does not prove van der Heyden employed counterproofing; as such evidence must be sought in order to corroborate this hypothesis. If some form of counterproofing was employed by the artist, there might be at least some repeated patterns of the bricks, as the master print master was shifted from place to place in the painting. Visual search for candidate repeated passages of bricks by art scholars has proven tedious and unreliable. For this reason, we instead used a method based on computer forensics for detecting nearly identical repeated patterns within an image: discrete crosscorrelation. Specifically, we preprocessed a high-resolution photograph of the painting and used thresholding and image processing to enhance the brickwork. Then we convolved small portions of this processed image of the brickwork with all areas of brickwork throughout the painting. Our results reveal only small regions of moderate cross-correlation. Most importantly, the limited spatial extent of matching regions shows that the peaks found are not significantly higher than would occur by chance in a hand-executed work or in one created using a single counterproof. To our knowledge, ours is the first use of cross-correlation to search for repeated patterns in a realist painting to answer a question in the history of art.

Paper Details

Date Published: 10 February 2009
PDF: 11 pages
Proc. SPIE 7240, Human Vision and Electronic Imaging XIV, 72401O (10 February 2009); doi: 10.1117/12.817186
Show Author Affiliations
David G. Stork, Ricoh Innovations (United States)
Sean Meador, Stanford Univ. (United States)
Petria Nobel, Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis (Netherlands)

Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 7240:
Human Vision and Electronic Imaging XIV
Bernice E. Rogowitz; Thrasyvoulos N. Pappas, Editor(s)

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