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The management of big databases of three-dimensional models (used in CAD applications, visualization, games, etc.) is a very important domain. The ability to characterize and easily retrieve models is a key issue for the designers and the final users. In this frame, two main approaches exist: search by example of a three-dimensional model, and search by a 2D view. We present a novel framework for the characterization of a 3D model by a set of views (called characteristic views), and an indexing process of these models with a Bayesian probabilistic approach using the characteristic views. The framework is independent from the descriptor used for the indexing. We illustrate our results using different descriptors on a collection of three-dimensional models supplied by Renault Group.