Signal Analysis Helping Art Historians and Conservators

2014 ISIT Plenary Lecture
Signal Analysis Helping Art Historians and Conservators
Ingrid Daubechies
Duke University


Signal Processing

Signal analysis and information theory can help art historians and art conservators in studying and help understand art works, their manufacture process and their state of conservation. The presentation will review several instances of such collaborations in the last decade or so, and then focus on one particular example: virtual cradle removal. Between the 12th to the 17th century, European artists typically painted on wooden boards. To remediate or prevent structural or insect damage, conservators in the 19th and first half of the 20th century first thinned the panels to a few millimeters, and then strengthened the much thinner wood structures by (permanently) attaching to their backs, hardwood lattices called cradles. These cradles are highly visible in X-ray images of the paintings. X-rays of paintings are a useful tool for art conservators and art historians to study the condition of a painting, as well as the techniques used by the artist and subsequent restorers. The cradling artifacts obstruct a clear "reading" of the X-rays by these experts. We introduce approaches to remove these artifacts, using a variety of mathematical tools, including Bayesian algorithms.



Biography: Ingrid Daubechies joined the Mathematics Department as James B. Duke Professor of Mathematics in Spring, 2011. Daubechies, one of the world's leading mathematicians, is a member of the United States' National Academy of Sciences, was a MacArthur Fellow, and is President of the International Mathematical Union. Professor Daubechies was born and educated in Belgium. She moved to the United States in 1987 where she first worked for Bell Laboratories and then at Princeton University where she was full Professor of Mathematics from 1993-2011. She is best known for her discovery and mathematical analysis of compactly supported wavelets, which are used in image compression, for example in JPEG 2000 for both lossless and lossy compression. She was awarded the Steele Prize for mathematical exposition in 1994 for her book, Ten Lectures on Wavelets.

One focus of Daubechies' current research is the development of analytic and geometric tools for the comparison of surfaces. Her new approach, developed with Yaron Lipmon uses conformal mapping to define a metric between surfaces. Comparison of surfaces plays a central role in many scientific disciplines and in the construction of video animations, and it is also a crucial step in many medical and biological applications. In an earlier collaboration, she worked with paleontologists to develop a quantitative method to characterize the complexity of molar tooth surfaces, in an effort to reconstruct the diet of various extinct taxa.

A particular interest of Professor Daubechies is the improvement of secondary mathematics education in the US and worldwide, and the stimulation of mathematics, science and technology in developing countries. In 2009 she spent part of her sabbatical in Madagascar; she continues to work with Malagasy mathematicians and scientists towards fostering a richer and more stimulating environment for students interested in developing a career in research and higher education.