Hunting for Paper Moldmates among Rembrandt’s Prints

By C. Richard Johnson, Jr., William A. Sethares, Margaret Holben Ellis, and Saira Haqqi. In IEEE Signal Processing Magazine 32, no. 4 (2015): 28-37.

Abstract: Early paper manufacturing used sieve-like molds through which paper pulp was drained. Two pieces of paper are called moldmates if they were made using the same mold. When there exists a large body of one artist’s work on paper, the identification of moldmates can help in establishing chronology, suggest paper preferences, and indicate periods of intense activity of the artist. Rembrandt is an especially good example. With several thousand prints in existence today, the study of Rembrandt’s prints has occupied scholars for over two centuries, and the study of his printing papers occupies a prominent place within this scholarship [1]. This paper examines the feasibility of moldmate identification via chain line pattern matching, and conducts a series of experiments that demonstrate how accurately the measurements can be made,how straight and how parallel the lines may be, and provides a rule-of-thumb for the number of chain lines required for accurate moldmate identification using a simplified model. The problem of identifying moldmates among Rembrandt’s prints is presented as a pair of image/signal processing tasks; our strategy is to provide basic solutions to these tasks and to then reveal the shortcomings of these solutions in the hopes of encouraging future work in the signal processing community.With the support of the Morgan Library & Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, we have made high resolution data available to facilitate this quest.

Full text available here.


Marbled Paper

Copyright C. Richard Johnson, Jr., et al., 2016.