Scientists at two British research centers – the University of Nottingham and the University of Bradford – used facial recognition technology to identify the creator of the painting, known as The de Brécy Tondo.
The system showed that the author of the tondo (a term for works of art inscribed in a circle) was the Italian Renaissance master, Rafael Santi, as scientists believed. Researchers have been arguing about the authenticity of The de Brécy Tondo for almost 50 years. A number of art historians consider it the predecessor of the “Sistine Madonna” by Raphael.
In 1981, the work was acquired by British collector George Lester Winward. He was the first to suggest that the painting belongs to the brush of the famous Italian. Subsequently, the work was transferred to the special Foundation de Brecy, so that it could be studied by all interested specialists.
In the 2000s, British researchers Howell Edwards and Timothy Benoy provided some evidence that Raphael could have been the author of the painting.
They studied the colors of the painting using molecular analysis to establish the time period of the painting, and discovered massicot – lead oxide, a gray-yellowish pigment, the most important for the old masters. Edwards and Benoy also stated that the glue used in the work was based on vegetable starch, which is also characteristic of Renaissance painters. Experts noted that many of the techniques for applying paint to canvas are unique to Raphael.
According to them, the picture was created before 1700. Scientists did not have more accurate information about the time the painting of Madonna and child was created.
Raphael died in 1520. In 2013, the foundation announced that the painting would be put up for auction, but there were no reports of its purchase, the page dedicated to the auction was subsequently removed from the site.
Edwards and Benoy were also involved in the current study. In an experiment using face recognition technology, it was found that a direct comparison of images of the mother of Jesus with The de Brécy Tondo and the Sistine Madonna yielded a 97% match.
The University of Nottingham claims that this is a very high statistical probability that the works are created by the same author. The degree of similarity of the faces of the baby Christ in both paintings is 86%. Usually in such cases, the similarity of 75% or more allows us to speak about the identity of the visual technique.