Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Sparse Coding Analysis

Some Yankee boffins in Dartmouth College, New Hampshire, reckon they've devised a way of telling genuine art from fakes. It's called Sparse Coding Analysis. First they digitize all the artist's known works. Then they get their computer to chop each artwork into 144 pieces (a 12 x 12 grid as shown). Next their computer generates a set of 144 random elements which are the same size as the 144 known pieces. Each of these random elements is then manipulated until some combination of them can recreate each piece from the original artwork. Are you with me so far? Next these random elements are refined until as few of them as possible can recreate the pieces from the original artwork. (That's the "sparse coding" bit.) Then a fake is tested against these refined pieces. If they cannot recreate the fake, this shows it's a fake. The boffins claim to have succeeded in detecting fake engravings purporting to be by Pieter Bruegel the Elder (note the lines in the graphic). I think they're on a sticky wicket here. Although Brueghel designed many engravings and etchings, he etched only one plate himself: The Rabbit Hunt (CLICK). So, Bruegel's designs were executed by other artists. Analysing his scratch marks doesn't prove a thing. And wait till they tackle the subtleties of painting! Oh well, it gets them a research grant, I suppose.


At 5/1/10, Blogger Luke said...

honestly I have not understood the meaning of "Each of these random elements is then manipulated until some combination of them can recreate each piece from the original artwork".
Could you explain this a little bit better?
Thanks a lot!

At 6/1/10, Blogger Coxsoft Art said...

Hi, Luke

That section had me a bit fogged to, which is is why I added "Are you with me with so far?" (Attempt at humour to lighten the fog.)

The random elements are generated by the computer. These are then compared with the real bits of artwork and twiddled around until some of the random elements can fit each piece of the original bits of artwork in the 12x12 grid. The random bits are then cut down until the minimum number of bits is found to recreate the original artwork. These bits form a sort of fingerprint of the original art. The fingerprint doesn't fit fakes, only the works of the original master artist.

At least, that's my understanding of it, and I am extremly sceptical. It might work on little bits of engraving, where lines can be shuffled about, turned upside down and inside out, but I can't imagine it telling a Botticelli from a Michelangelo.

Hope this helps.


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