Art Historians Are Developing a Fancy New Tool to Identify Faces

Art Historians are using the same “face recognition” technology used to identify terrorists to attempt to identify the anonymous subjects in various iconic portraits. Fancy stuff. Plus, it’s got a cool acronym.

FACES (Faces, Art and Computerized Evaluation Systems) is being described as a “new tool for art historians.” Here’s Conrad Rudolph, a professor of art history at the University of California, on the subject:

“Before the advent of photography, portraits were, almost by definition, depictions of people who were important in their own worlds. But, as a walk through almost any major museum will show, a large number of these unidentified portraits from before the 19th century have lost the identities of their subjects.”

The technology can identify faces from existing scans of things like death masks or other identified works like sculpture and painting. The Independent points out that the identities of certain subjects of very familiar paintings, like Vermeer’s Girl with a Peal Earring and Hals’s The Laughing Cavalier, still remain unknown.