Artificial intelligence reveals the secret behind a Picasso canvas

Picasso’s Meal of the Blind Man covered an old painting by the master, which was recently reconstituted with AI.

The more time passes, the more technology continues to offer us new perspectives on old objects. And this goes even for master paintings. The Oxia Palus company revealed yesterday that it had reconstructed a portrait of a crouching nude woman, concealed under another painting by Pablo Picasso.

Back then, canvases were expensive, so it was common to reuse them. This is how the master reluctantly decided to go over it again in 1903. Result: the mysterious unknown became the Blind Man’s Meal, now exhibited at Metropolitan from New York. But at the same time, the old work was buried forever under the paint.

This reconstituted painting was hidden behind another painting by the master, exhibited at the Met in New York. © Oxia Palus

Or rather, it was the case until the intervention of Oxia Palus. The firm started by using X-ray fluorescence spectrometry, or XRF. A barbaric name, but behind which hides a very simple principle; when we bombard a surface with X-rays, it in return emits radiation that we can study. With this process and a good dose of work on the image, they were able to obtain a faithful representation of the contours and lines of the original work.

Then comes the most interesting part. To achieve a result that looks like a real work rather than a sketch, Oxia Palus used theartificial intelligence. His teams began by training a neural network to reproduce the characteristic style of the master, even in the relief of the painting. They then let her add the brushstrokes to produce a real portrait ”à la Picasso”. Finally, the result was put on canvas using a technique ofvery fine 3D printing.

A little piece of history

Obviously, the result remains an interpretation of AI. But according to Ty Murphy, an art specialist interviewed by CNN, the result is still convincing, especially at first glance. He explained, however, that an expert could certainly make the distinction after a thorough analysis.

And if this work is interesting, it is because it is not just a treat for art fanatics or a technological feat. The canvases, in particular by master, are small pieces of history; they can tell us a lot not only about the author, but also about his life and the historical context. So we can expect that other hidden gems like this will eventually emerge, and with them, a fascinating piece of history that surrounds them.

The reconstructed work is exhibited at the exhibition Deeep, which takes place in London from October 13 to 17.

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