Originals and Copies: Where Art & Math Intersect

Dutch artist and art historian Charlotte Caspers is visiting North Carolina in September and October 2012, thanks to a joint grant from the North Carolina Museum of Art (NCMA) and the Visiting Artist program of the Duke University Council for the Arts. During most of September her focus is on the reconstruction of a missing panel of an altarpiece by Ghissi (Italian, 14th century), of which NCMA has three panels in its own collection, and on which it plans to hold a special exhibition in 2013, featuring a reunion with the other known panels of the altarpiece (now in New York, Chicago, and Portland).

In October, she will hold several workshops on art reconstruction, and on painting techniques from the Middle Ages and the early Renaissance. She will then also work on a research project with Ingrid Daubechies, Department of Math, on differences between original paintings and copies of existing paintings.

This exhibition displays several original paintings of household objects (stuffed and ceramic animals) and copies of the paintings, part of the research project with Daubechies. It will be on display September 24-30 in the East Duke Building.

Can a mathematical analysis of a high-resolution digital version of a painting allow researchers to deduce reliably whether a painting is original or not? Find out in “Mathematics Revealing Art: Discerning the Hand of The Master?”, a lecture presented by Caspers and Duke mathematics professor Ingrid Daubechies on Thursday, September 27. See their work in this PBS Nova special.

Ingrid Daubechies is an applied mathematician who holds a James B. Duke Chair of Professor of Mathematics at Duke University. She is interested in developing mathematical tools that help scientists and engineers find and use structure and patterns in complex data. She is most known for her work on wavelets; some of the mathematical constructs she developed are now part of the JPEG2000 image compression standard used in many internet applications as well as in digital movies in the United States and Europe.

Charlotte Caspers is a Dutch artist and art historian. During her graduate education, in painting restoration techniques, she concentrated her attention especially on historically accurate painting materials and techniques. She is also an independent creative artist in her own right, using the expertise acquired during her studies in her own paintings. Her creative work is characterized by rich but delicate textures. The eye of the beholder finds details that anchor and delight, and that invite to further scrutiny. Superb craftsmanship and a careful, confident use of the materials provide the paintings with an extra poetic layer that enhances the subject. Charlotte herself considers it the highest possible compliment if spectators find that looking at her paintings brings them joy. In her own art, Caspers’ stated goal is to make jewelry for our walls that will provide extra luster to life.

In addition to her career as an independent artist, Caspers has undertaken projects in art reconstruction for museums, companies, and individual patrons. She has collaborated on research projects involving art reconstruction with the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, the Jheronimus Bosch Art Center in ’s-Hertogenbosch, the Rijksmuseum in Twenthe en de Selexyz Library in Maastricht (all in the Netherlands) as well as the Tate in London (UK) and the St-Bavo Cathedral in Ghent (Belgium).

Sponsored by the Department of Mathematics and the Department of Art, Art History & Visual Studies, with the generous support of the Visiting Artist Program of the Duke University Council for the Arts.