Masters of expressions

Painters of the Golden Age knew like no other how to convey human emotions convincingly. Hamdi Dibeklioğlu demonstrates this with software that recognizes expressions. His set-up is part of an exhibition in the Frans Hals Museum in Haarlem.

Rembrandts self-portrait form 1630 shows just a little hint of disgust. - Photo: Frans Hals Museum
Rembrandts self-portrait form 1630 shows just a little hint of disgust. - Photo: Frans Hals Museum

It is clear that Rembrandt looks frightened in the master's self-portrait. But fear is not the only expression. He looks a bit surprised as well. To be more precise: 30% of the expression is wonder. And there is a hint (5 %) of disgust. Or so Hamdi Dibeklioğlu, of the pattern recognition and bioinformatics section (EEMCS faculty), and Theo Gevers from the University of Amsterdam calculated with their special software that analyses facial expressions in paintings.

Dibeklioğlu and Gevers’ facial analysis system is part of the exhibition Emotions - Pain and Pleasure in Dutch painting of the Golden Age, in the Frans Hals Museum, which runs till 15 February 2015.

The exhibition contains more than fifty works from the sixteenth- and seventeenth-century collections of museums including the Frans Hals Museum, the Rijksmuseum, the Mauritshuis, Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, Musée des Beaux-Arts de Strasbourg, Teylers Museum, the Centraal Museum and a number of private collections in the Netherlands and abroad. As well as paintings by Frans Hals, the exhibition features history paintings, genre works and portraits by masters like Pieter Lastman, Rembrandt, Jan Steen and Frans van Mieris.