Researchers Say They've Maybe Confirmed Another Anne Boleyn Portrait


There’s only one agreed-upon contemporary portrait of Anne Boleyn, because when a king dumps you, he lops off your head and everybody scrubs your face from the historical record. But researchers think they’ve found a second one knocking around, after all these years.

The Guardian reports that researchers at the University of California at Riverside, led by Amit Roy-Chowdhury, programmed their facial recognition software using confirmed depictions of several famous people, then turned it loose on paintings featuring people who are unidentified or unconfirmed. Based on the only uncontested depiction of Boleyn from her own time, the “Moost Happi” medal, the program suggested that the woman in the so-called Nidd Hall portrait is likely Henry VIII’s second wife. Historians have long suspected the woman in the painting was wearing Boleyn’s jewelry, but thought it could’ve been the next wife, Jane Seymour. (Ice cold.)

If it’s really Boleyn, the painting’s a damn sight better likeness than the medal, which is busted-looking. In fact, it’s so busted-looking that one wonders how they could get reliable results with it. (The software is, of course, not bulletproof: the Telegraph points out that the software also failed to match two other portraits, including a well-known copy of an earlier painting hanging in the UK’s National Portrait Gallery. Oops!)

No luck on solving one mystery from Renaissance Italy, though:

The 17th-century Italian painter, Caravaggio, allegedly gave one of the figures in his altarpiece The Entombment of Christ the features of Michelangelo. But the computer found no matches when it compared the figure, Nicodemus, with bronze busts and a chalk drawing of Michelangelo.

Worth noting: Roy-Chowdhury himself didn’t get too grandiose regarding the reliability of his team’s results, suggesting that, “What the computer gives at the end is another source of evidence for the discussions that have been going on about these questions.” A wise man knows better than to step into the middle of an ongoing art historian brawl.

Photo via Getty.

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