Introducing Fingerprint: an interdisciplinary research project on the graphic works of Pieter Bruegel the Elder

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Pieter Bruegel, Justitia, S II 133 707 (detail), 1559, 224 x 295 mm, KBR Print Room, Brussels, Imaging with Multi-Spectral Microdome (RICH project)

The Imaging Lab is one of the partners in FINGERPRINT: an interdisciplinary collection- and data management project, involving art history, art technical research, digital imaging, image processing, conservation science.

The aim is to monitor and evaluate the phases of the genesis of a print, from the unique preparatory drawings over proof impressions to later states and editions. This will be accomplished through advanced digital imaging, statistical processing and laboratory analyses.

The graphic works of Pieter Bruegel the Elder (ca. 1520-1569) in the collection of the Royal Library of Belgium is the test corpus for the FINGERPRINT project. The tools and methods developed to gather and treat the data will be designed to answer specific questions regarding the prints and drawings from this corpus. These questions concern both collection management, technical art history and conservation science as well as production, distribution and consumption history of the corpus of artifacts of Bruegel.

Until today art-historical research on prints and drawings depends for the largest part on traditional art-historical methods based on observation with the naked eye and on the subjective memory and knowledge of connoisseurs. The aim of this project is to develop tools to automatically perform an objective artefact analysis, and software to visualize, compare and organise large numbers of complex visual and material data.

The four-year project (2016-2020) is a collaboration of the Print Room of the Royal Library of Belgium and three KU Leuven teams: the Imaging Lab,  Illuminare, Centre for the Study of Medieval Art (RICH Project Book Heritage Lab) and ESAT. The research project is funded by Belspo BRAIN-be (Belgian Research Action through Interdisciplinary Networks). The Royal Institute of Cultural Heritage (KIKIRPA), Brussels and the international research project on the materials and techniques of Pieter Bruegel the Elder (KHM, Vienna) are main research partners.

The project’s progress can be followed on its blog.

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