Are you considering purchasing a piece of art? Maybe you already have a painting hanging on the wall of your home, and you don't know much about its history. There are many reasons that people buy art. Often, you could pick up a painting from your local art dealer because you like the scene depicted. Perhaps, it is of a location you know well, or the scene has a calming effect on your nerves after a busy day. However, if you collect art for investment purposes, or to establish a collection by a particular artist, you must find out more about the art before you buy it. An investigation can determine the artist of the piece, or perhaps, tell you more about the history of the artwork.
Do you know the artist?
Sometimes, identifying the artist responsible for a painting is easy. You might be buying the piece from the artist, or the gallery could have a signed statement by the artist confirming the authenticity of the artwork. If the artist is no longer living, you may need to turn to a company that offers scientific investigations of art. What you cannot do is trust that the painting is exactly what it is purported to be. Given the high value of many paintings, it is no surprise that many fakes and forgeries exist to scam the unwary. You could try to trace the provenance of a painting by following a chain of receipts or by looking for articles or catalogues that mention the piece, but sometimes the trail goes cold. By working with a company that can conduct a scientific investigation of art, you can determine whether the painting is a genuine Old Master or a modern forgery.
How could a scientific investigation of art help?
Looking at a painting can tell you some information, but it can't tell you everything. Experts can be fooled if a forger can successfully imitate the style of their chosen artist. A scientific investigation of art will involve conducting numerous tests on the piece to see if it is what it claims to be. Often, the investigation will start with a conservation and technology report. The report will look at whether any changes have been made to the painting. Sometimes, an older painting can be restored, repaired or modified by a later artist, which can obscure the original work.
Scientific investigation of art can involve mapping the cracks in the artwork using Reflectance Transformation Imaging. All older paintings will have tiny cracks, but the exact pattern of cracks will be unique. Once the cracks on the painting have been mapped, the result is compared to existing images of work to determine whether you are looking at the genuine picture or a clever copy.
X-rays are another investigative technique that can be useful. X-rays can indicate whether the visible painting has been produced over the top of an existing painting. Overpainting is a common trick with forgers who need an older canvas to appear authentic. Exposure to x-rays will also indicate the pigments used in the painting, and determine whether they are authentic for the expected period.