Authenticating Fine Art
Wherever there is money to be made, there are people who will find a way to duplicate items. Art is one of the fields where this is a problem. “New” pieces of art are being found on a fairly regular basis. These are touted as works by past masters in their fields. Because the artist is not available to say whether or not they created a work of art, galleries must provide proof it was actually done by the artist whose signature appears on the piece.
Authenticating art is a complicated process. There are several different ways it is accomplished. One way is to date the materials contained in the piece. If someone claims a vase was created during the Ming Dynasty in China, the material must be old enough to even consider this claim. Thermoluminescence is a dating methods used on ceramic pieces. While it is not accurate down to a specific year, it can generally date ceramic material within 500 years of when it was created.
Provenance is another authentication method used by experts. A provenance is a written history of every person or organization that has ever owned an art object. Many art objects are not signed, but there are records of when they were sold. If a provenance is not complete, it does not authenticate a piece. Each owner must be listed. There are experts in the field of art authentication who specialize in locating information to complete provenances.
Analysis of an artist’s overall body of work will show a pattern of styles used in their pieces. There are experts who study these styles and use them to decide whether or not a particular artist created a work of art. Paintings are particularly good subjects for this type of analysis. The majority of artists depend upon developing their own particular style for painting certain objects quickly and concisely in their works. One artist may always give figures long hair, and another artist may always paint slippers on the feet of females in their works. Searching for and finding these tell-tale clues is another important part of authenticating a work of art.