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1000 tulips: Artificial Intelligence meets Ottoman Art

Artificial algorithms can read our faces with ease: but can they read art?


In this webinar, two art historians and a biologist describe a remarkable project in which they used computers to decode the ornamental language developed by Ottoman artists, as seen in the ceramics produced at Iznik between 1480 and 1700. They show how machine learning algorithms that incorporate art historians’ expertise can be used to identify, and classify, the bewildering diversity of motifs used by Iznik artisans and even date ceramics by style. Artificial intelligence, they argue, is about to revolutionize art history. With the development of "computational connoisseurs" capable of classifying thousands of artworks simultaneously, the possibility of a science of art history is at hand.


19 OCTOBER 2021 

20:00 HKT (Tuesday)

14:00 CEST (Tuesday)

13:00 BST (Tuesday)

21:00 IST (Tuesday)

16:00 UAE (Tuesday)


Melanie Gibson

George Manginis

Armand Marie Leroi


Li-Chun Hu


About the speakers

Melanie Gibson, BA (Oxon) MA, PhD (SOAS, London University) is the Editor of the Gingko Art Series. She convenes the Islamic Art module of the Postgraduate Diploma in Asian Art at SOAS and was formerly head of the Art History faculty at New College of the Humanities, London. Her research focuses on the ceramics and glass of the Islamic world. 

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George Manginis is the Academic Director of the Benaki Museum, which he joined in 2017. Since 2001 he has been teaching the history of Byzantine, Islamic and Chinese art at SOAS, the Courtauld Institute, the University of Edinburgh, et al. He has published four books: Mount Sinai: A History of Travellers and Pilgrims(London 2016), China Rediscovered: The Benaki Museum Collection of Chinese Ceramics (Athens and London 2016), Director’s Choice: Benaki Museum (London 2021) and Ceramics from Korea at the Benaki Museum: The George Eumorfopoulos Collection (Athens 2021).

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Armand Marie Leroi is Professor of Evolutionary Developmental Biology at Imperial College in London.  Besides many scientific articles he has written two books, Mutants: On Genetic Variety and the Human Body (2004), which won the Guardian First Book Award, and The Lagoon: how Aristotle invented Science, (2014), which won the Runciman and London Hellenic Prizes for books about Greece. He has written and presented television programmes for the BBC, National Geographic and Channel 4 including Human Mutants (2004), Alien Worlds (2005), What Makes Us Human, (2006), What Darwin Didn’t Know (2009), Darwin’s Lost Voyage (2009), Aristotle’s Lagoon (2010), and The Secret Science of Pop (2017). He also writes occasionally for various newspapers such as the Financial Times, New York Times, London Review of Books and Times Literary Supplement.  His current scientific research focuses on cultural evolution. 

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About the moderator

Li-Chun Hu is an independent art consultant specialising in Chinese ceramics and works of art.  She has a background in classical music and industrial design before receiving her Master's in Art Market & Appraisals in England. Li-Chun's profession takes her to international Chinese art auctions, and she continues to give advisory services to private collectors, dealers, and regional auction houses around the world. Her connoisseurship, experience, and market acumen help her source the highest quality objects for a global client base.

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