On the left: The Madonna of the Pinks; on the right: the infrared photo that reveals the drawings in Raphael's hand beneath it - Close Examination: Fakes, mistakes and discoveries at the National Gallery, review
On the left: The Madonna of the Pinks; on the right: the infrared photo that reveals the drawings in Raphael's hand beneath it - Close Examination: Fakes, mistakes and discoveries at the National Gallery, review
Art Forgery is a technique where a person creates an art of someone who is more famous and selling it for financial gain. A person could copied an artwork and is consider legitimately but when they offer the work for a price as an attempt to represent the work as an original then it is consider art forgery. Different countries have different law on owning, buying, and selling forged work so the amount of work carry out by the criminal investigation will depend of the circumstances and context. . However, the forging of a certificate of authenticity to accompany the work of art is also considered a criminal offense, and can also be investigated by a forensic document examiner. Art Forgery could vary from fake signature to imitating a work of art. Detecting art forgery is very difficult however due to modern dating and analysis techniques the processes have become much for easier.

Mona Lisa forgery
Mona Lisa forgery

Art forgery have stated back two thousand years ago. Copies of the original were being sold at those time and buyers knew that they weren’t genuine and the artist wasn’t important to them. Art during the classical period was created for enjoyment, religious aspect and/or historical references.

As part of the apprentice who studies art during the Renaissance, it is a practice to study different painting techniques by copying the work of their master. The master would then take those paintings and sell them as a payment for the training. This is not consider a forgery but a tribute however sometime the buyer would think that the master are the ones who paint the artwork.

Following the Renaissance, the world start to demanding for art by the newly form middle class. Near the end of the 14th century, people start to become interested in antiquities when Roman statues were unburied in Italy thus causing a sharp increase of price on these works. Also the decrease in artists has cause the price to go up. Less artist, the more expensive the art are. The value of the artworks depend on who was the artist is and artists would mark their work which soon became signatures. As the demand for certain artwork began to exceed the supply, fraudulent marks and signatures began to appear on the open market.

There are different types of art Forgery:

  • Fake signatures – Signing an unfinished work that wasn’t sign by the real artist or simply changing the name to their own.
  • Completing unfinished works – Finishing or improving the work that was left incomplete by another person.
  • Misrepresentation – A master artist selling the work of its apprentices (see history section)
  • Reproduction – Coping an original art work and/or selling it.
  • Pastiche - copying details/ style of another artist
  • Drafts - simulating drafts of a major work, such as an oil painting or sculpture, by concocting sketches of figures.

Among international crimes, drug is the only crime that should exceeds $1 billion worth of art. A little more than 10% of it are art stolen from museums, churches, galleries, and collectors But most of the 10% comes from stolen art work that aren’t a masterpiece but still sellable to collectors and museums. Stolen art work is more common is Italy, Greece, Turkey, Latin America, and the American Southwest.
A Way to Identity A Forge Painting
Painting layers
Painting layers

A painting is composed of four layers: support, ground layer, paint layer, and varnish. The support is usually made of either wood or canvas. The wood support is very useful in analysis because modern fakes are normally painted on older looking wood to make it seem it was painted in the olden days. An examination style called Dendrochronology, studies the growth ring patterns and can be use to age a painting. An X-ray will be use to see the construction of a panel. For instant to see if there is any features like saw marks. Before mechanical saws were invented, manual saws where use to make wood support. Manual saws leave uneven marks. If a painted claim to be from the 17th century but there are regular marks that it shows that painting is possibly a fake.

Another thing an investigator might focus on is the edge of the painting. They use a special type of magnifier or infrared light to investigate the ground layer to the painting and this technique doesn’t cause any damage to the painting. However there are times where an invasive test is needed. They would extract a small sample from the surface of the painting and analysis it. This sample will be study by either an x-radiography or microscopy which revel all the layers and the composition. Then they will compare it to authenticated work from the art to find any similarities.

A technical examination of the paint layer can help to confirm a work's age and authenticity. The investigator would look at the materials the artist use and the different strokes. The different material use to paint an art uses today are different from the material use in history. For example, earth colors use minerals such as iron oxide came first, followed by greens (malachite), blues (azurite), and black (charred animal bone). The more modern type of paint contains more chemicals. Spectroscopy is use to revel different pigments while x ray are use more for titanium dioxide. If the result is more modern than the actual date then there are 2 possibilities: Forgery or the date that the original art is created is an error.

Examination and photography are important for examining the painted layer. The surface and smaller features are important details to note when dealing with art forgery. If the surface have a smoother appearance then it is create in the more modern ear because smoother appearance are created from ready mix pigments which are a modern development. Examination of the paint layer in ultraviolet light can show re-painted areas as dark spots. Some artist will repaint their art work so it isn’t a sure sign of forgery. However of the paint is said to have not been alter then it would be a possibility for forgery. This could be a sign of a forger trying to correct a mistake that they could have made.

Craquelure is a characteristic cracking pattern that shows the ageing of paint. By examining the surface with a magnifying glass, it will shows if the craquelure matches the age of the suppose painting. Many paintings are varnished to preserve them and improve their appearance. Like paint, different varnishes have evolved over time. Ultra-violet light can tell the difference between the old and modern varnishes. Synthetic varnish gives a clear or lavender fluorescence, while shellac fluoresces orange. Varnish discolors with time and this can also help date a painting.

Another thing an investigator will look for is other signs of authenticity. Some manufacturers of material will mark their products with stamps which give in formations such as dates. When a painting have been owned, sold, exhibited, or framed there will be marks or signs that will help decide the history of the art.

Case of Art Forgery
Geert Jan Jansen was a forger that sold his forge arts at the a Dutch market with paintings by Picasso and Chagall. But in 1988 he moved to France because he was suspected for his activities. Around the mid 1990s, he was under the investigation of French polices because of his continuation of selling forgeries at auction houses. In May1994, the police found him in his home in Poitiers and was in possession of 700 fake drawings and 1,500 forged certificates of authenticity. Jansen confused that those were less than 5 percent of his total production.
La Bella Principessa forgery case: has yet to be solve

La Bella Principessa attributed to Leonardo da Vinci
La Bella Principessa was an art made by Leonardo da Vinci. In 2008 an art dealer Peter Silverman claims that he discover it in his friend’s home, the work have been auctioned and sold to Silverman. Art historians argue that the painting that Silverman have bought is not the real painting of Leonardo. The case has yet to be solved.
Christ and the Disciples at Emmaus attributed to Vermeer:
An art forgery during WWII by Han Van Meegeren
An art forgery during WWII by Han Van Meegeren
This art forgery case occer during the 20th century during WWII. A Vermeer expert, Abraham Bredius thought it was one of Vermeer genuine and most masterful work. However because of being well respected by the public is observation was not question. Han Van Meegeren was the forger of the art and was charged with helping the enemy for selling an original Vermeer to Nazi Field Marshall Hermann Goering. In order to escape the death sentence he repaint another copy of Vermeer work under police watch to prove that the art he sold was fake. It turns out that he also forge 16 other arts through process of painting and aging which allow him to trick even the art experts for $30 million.

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