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This paper presents a novel variational formulation incorporating statistical knowledge to detect shapes in images. We propose to train an energy based on joint shape and feature statistics inferred from training data. Variational approaches to shape detection traditionally involve energies consisting of a feature term and a regularization term. The feature term forces the detected object to be optimal with respect to image properties such as contrast, pattern or edges whereas the regularization term stabilizes the shape of the object. Our trained energy does not rely on these two separate terms, hence avoids the non-trivial task of balancing them properly. This enables us to incorporate more complex image features while still relying on a moderate number of training samples. Cell detection in microscope images illustrates the capability of the proposed method to automatically adapt itself to different image features. We also introduce a nonlinear energy and exemplarily compare it to the linear approach.