The Next Rembrandt

by J. Walter Thompson - Amsterdam


How a brush with data created a new Rembrandt.

ING’s support of Dutch culture is like their banking. Not staid, but innovative.

So typically, with J. Walter Thompson, Amsterdam, they had an idea that was almost mischievous. Take a bank speciality – crunching data – and turn it creative.

The result was The Next Rembrandt, and an art world agog. The Next Rembrandt is an oil painting completely crafted by computers from Rembrandt data.

First, JWT analysed Rembrandt’s 346 paintings pixel by pixel. Demographic data decided the subject (white, male, thirty-something). Facial recognition and machine-learning software analysed Rembrandt’s style to generate new features in a new face.

Even Rembrandt’s paint-clotted brush strokes lived again with info from 3D scans.

Eighteen months later, with 11-billion pixels of data thoroughly crunched, a special 3D printer gave birth to The Next Rembrandt.

On unveiling day in Amsterdam, The Next Rembrandt  leapt onto the global stage, with 10 million Twitter impressions and 1,400 (and counting) press articles. With no paid media, the project earned over 1.8 billion global media impressions – a value of 12.5 million euro. (Both ING and partner Microsoft saw share prices jump on launch day).

The intended message was clear. With ING, innovation is an art.

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