No, this doesn't have a damn thing to do with killer drones, pain rays, or mullahs with nukes. But I'm posting this Wired News story of mine anyway, dammit. It's about software tools that may be able to spot the difference between a real painting, and a slick forgery.
Scholars have had their suspicions that the painting of Madonna and child credited to the Italian Renaissance master Pietro Perugino wasn't really done by him alone. But they could never be sure.Now, a new set of software tools, developed by a Dartmouth College team, seems to confirm the art historians' doubts, showing evidence of at least four different painters working on the canvas. The programs' makers hope this will be the first in a long line of art authentication mysteries they can help put to rest, with code that can sort out real from fake."There are properties in an artist's pen and brush strokes that aren't visible to the human eye, but that are there nonetheless. And we can find them, through mathematical, statistical analysis," said Dartmouth computer science professor Hany Farid, who developed the algorithms, along with math professor Daniel Rockmore and graduate student Siwei Lyu.But museum curators and statisticians caution that the Dartmouth group's techniques have only begun to be tested. Using algorithms to back up scholars' suspicions is one thing; uncovering a fraud with just a computer, that's completely different. And in the art world, no scientific method is considered as sure as the eye of a seasoned connoisseur."This is very unusual," said Nadine Orenstein, the curator of the drawings and prints department at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. "We're all a bit skeptical."THERE'S MORE: Earlier this year, Farid made noise when he unveiled his software for finding faked digital images. My New York Times story on that work is here.