Crack detection and inpainting for virtual restoration of paintings: The case of the Ghent Altarpiece

Bruno Cornelis, Tijana Ruzic, Emile Gezels, Ann Dooms, Aleksandra Pizurica, Ljiljana Platisa, Jan Cornelis, Maximiliaan Martens, Marc De Mey, Ingrid Daubechies, [No Value] Elsevier (Editor)

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

73 Citations (Scopus)


Digital image processing is proving to be of great help in the analysis and documentation of our vast cultural heritage. In this paper, we present a new method for the virtual restoration of digitized paintings with special attention for the Ghent Altarpiece (1432), a large polyptych panel painting of which very few digital reproductions exist. We achieve our objective by detecting and digitally removing cracks. The detection of cracks is particularly difficult because of the varying content features in different parts of the polyptych. Three new detection methods are proposed and combined in order to detect cracks of different sizes as well as varying brightness. Semi-supervised clustering based post-processing is used to remove objects falsely labelled as cracks. For the subsequent inpainting stage, a patch-based technique is applied to handle the noisy nature of the images and to increase the performance for crack removal. We demonstrate the usefulness of our method by means of a case study where the goal is to improve readability of the depiction of text in a book, present in one of the panels, in order to assist paleographers in its deciphering.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)605-619
Number of pages18
JournalSignal Processing
Issue numberImage Processing for Digital Art Work
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2013

Bibliographical note



  • Crack detection
  • Patch-based inpainting
  • Digital restoration
  • Ghent Altarpiece
  • Adoration of the Mystic Lamb


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