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The AI ​​version of “The Girl with the Pearl Earring” is under discussion

A copy made using artificial intelligence of one of the most famous works in the history of painting, “Girl with a Pearl Earring” by Vermeer, sparked controversy on Friday in a Dutch museum.

At first glance we find the luster that characterizes the original painting and the symbolic gaze of the young girl, but on closer examination strange details emerge.

This little girl has not just one earring, but two, one on each side, sparkling, and freckles of a somewhat inhuman shade of red splattered across her face.

France Press agency

The AI ​​version of the work is part of an exhibition at the Mauritshuis in The Hague, bringing together fan versions of Vermeer’s “Girl with a Pearl Earring” (1665), which is currently on loan to the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam for a retrospective. Happened on the Dutch painter.

The decision to display it sparked a debate in the Netherlands and on social networks: Does artificial intelligence have a place in a museum like the Mauritshuis, which notably collects classic works by Vermeer and Rembrandt?

“It’s controversial, so people are for or against it,” notes Mauritshuis press officer Boris de Monique.

“The people who picked the artwork, they loved it, they knew it was AI, but we loved the work, so we picked it, and we hung it” on the wall, he told AFP.

France Press agency

Berlin-based digital designer Julien van Decken created an image for Mauritshuis’ “My Girl with a Pearl Earring” contest, inviting people to submit their copy of the famous painting.

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Use the Midjourney AI tool, which can create complex images using millions of images from the Internet and Photoshop.

She is chosen from five creations—out of 3,482 submitted—displayed in the room where the real “Girl with a Pearl Earring” usually sits.

“Surreal to see her in a museum,” Julien van Decken wrote on Instagram.

The contestants, ranging in age from 3 to 94, used all kinds of tools and objects such as crayons, paint, textiles, and even salad and flowers.

The AI-generated image selection caused a stir. It was an “incredible shame and humiliation,” Dutch artist Iris Combete said on the museum’s Instagram page, a view shared by dozens of other netizens.

France Press agency

“It’s an insult to Vermeer’s legacy and also to any working artist. Coming from a museum, it’s a real slap in the face,” Combet blasted the AFP, comparing the picture to Frankenstein’s monster.

She believes that artificial intelligence tools infringe the copyrights of other artists, using their work as the basis for artificially generated images, and using images of netizens.

It’s an “unethical technology,” says AI curator Eva Turinent.

The Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant quoted this program as saying: “Without the work of human artists, this program simply would not be able to produce works.”

“It is a very difficult question,” asked Boris de Monique, “what is art and what is not?” , adding that the Moricho family did not intentionally seek to open the discussion.

“We think it’s a beautiful picture, we think it’s a creative process,” he adds, and “we’re not a museum (sort of) debating whether AI has a place in an art museum.”

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As for the freckles on the AI ​​version of “Girl with a Pearl Earring,” they’re seen “up close,” “a little scary,” he admits.

Visitors are divided, he says: “Younger ones tend to say, ‘It’s artificial intelligence, nothing new’,” while older people prefer “more traditional paintings.”