A Dutch museum has been debated since Friday and the exhibition of a very particular work: a version made using artificial intelligence of one of the most illustrious works in the history of painting. The Mauritshuis Museum in The Hague offered an audience a revisit of Vermeer's "The Girl with a Pearl Earring".

At first glance, we find the brightness so characteristic of the original painting and the emblematic look of the girl but on closer inspection, strange details are obvious. This young girl has not only one earring but two, one on each side, sparkling, and freckles of a shade of red a little inhuman litter her face.

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Nearly 3,500 images used

The artificial intelligence (AI) version is part of an exhibition gathering fan reproductions of Vermeer's "The Girl with a Pearl Earring" (1665), currently on loan to the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam for a retrospective event on the Dutch painter.

Berlin-based digital designer Julian van Dieken made the image for the Mauritshuis' "My Daughter with a Pearl Earring" competition, calling on people to send in their version of the famous painting. He used the AI tool Midjourney, which can generate complex images using millions of images from the Internet, and Photoshop. She was selected from one of the five creations - out of the 3,482 submitted - exhibited in the room where the real "Girl with a Pearl Earring" usually sits.

'A shame and an incredible insult'

The decision to expose it sparked controversy in the Netherlands and on social media. One artist said on the museum's exhibition's Instagram page that it was "a shame and an incredible insult," an opinion shared by dozens of other netizens.

"It's controversial, so people are for or against," said Boris de Munnick, press officer for the Mauritshuis. "We think it's a beautiful image, we think it's a creative process," and "we're not the [kind of] museum to discuss whether AI belongs in an art museum," he adds.

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