A National Gallery masterpiece worth millions is a fake, according to a study using artificial intelligence.
Samson and Delilah, by Peter Paul Rubens, has long been the subject of debate, with some critics suggesting that the painting was not created by the 17th-century Flemish master.
The painting bought by the National Gallery for £ 2.5million in 1980 is almost certainly a fake, according to a computer analysis.
An artificial intelligence (AI) program, which can capture details including brushstroke patterns unique to individual artists, was used to digitize the canvas listed as one of the gallery’s “highlights” .
“Every patch, every square came out as fake”
Dr Carina Popovici, the scientist who conducted the survey with the Swiss company Art Recognition, said: “The results are quite astonishing. The algorithm returned a 91% chance that the artwork was not authentic. “
“I was so shocked. We repeated the experiments to make sure we didn’t make a mistake and the result was always the same.
She told the Guardian: “Every patch, every square came out as fake, with over 90% chance.”
The technology was used to scan another painting attributed to Rubens whose provenance has never been questioned, A View of Het Steen in the Early Morning, with results indicating a 98.76% probability that he had been painted by the artist.
The results support earlier speculation about the origins of Samson and Delilah, with some experts claiming the work is just a copy of a lost original painting by Rubens, painted around 1610.
It has been suggested that the work purchased by the National Gallery was mistakenly declared to be that of Rubens in the 1920s by art expert Ludwig Burchard, who later turned out to have misallocated paintings to his own commercial profit.
A spokesperson for the National Gallery said, “The gallery always takes note of new research. We await its publication in its entirety so that any evidence can be properly assessed. Until then, it will not be possible to comment further.
The painting depicts Samson slumped asleep in Delilah’s arms, while his hair is cut by a servant to reduce his superhuman strength.
It has been suggested that the palette used in the work differs from that usually favored by Rubens, the quality of the painting not corresponding to that of the master.
Rubens was born in 1577 and enjoyed a prolific artistic career, largely based in his studio in Antwerp, producing over 1,400 works.
In 2002, a new record was set for his paintings, The Massacre of the Innocents amounting to £ 49.5million at auction at Sotheby’s in London.