Art historians love interpreting paintings but they also love finding ‘true facts’ about paintings (excuse the postmodern snigger quotes). Three recent examples related to Dutch art history are below, two of which show a definite input from digital / scientific methodology.
The Next Rembrandt created an entirely fictitious Rembrandt portrait based on use the mass of existing technical data related to existing Rembrandt paintings.
Van Gogh’s Bedrooms was an exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago. It included results of chemical analysis that allowed conservators to claim they found the true, original colours of the painting (or at least one of them; Van Gogh painted three). While there has been much hubbub about the slowness of art history to adopt digital methods, it’s worth noting that conservators / technical art historians have been working with scientific analysis of paintings for a considerable time.
Finally, the actual location of Vermeer’s The Little Street in Delft was revealed. However, this was based on painstaking analysis of archival material in its physical rather than digital form, checking extant maps and documents in archives to try and find the eponymous location.