More ways to skin a canvas
Most of the high-tech ways to detect phony art were invented for another reason. Here are some of the techniques we've run across.

T E C H N I Q U E.

U S E.

Carbon dating

Measuring age

Ultraviolet fluoresence
Finding repairs

Polarized light microscopy
Pigment analysis
Infrared analysis
Detecting earlier paintings on same backing
Conventional X-ray
Detecting earlier work under the surface

X-ray diffraction (the object bends X-rays)
Analyzing crystalline components in pigments

X-ray fluorescence (bathing the object with radiation causes it to emit X-rays)

Elemental analysis, as in particle-induced X-ray emission (see below)

Neutron activation analysis
Elemental analysis (see above) or neutron activation

blood v. paint

When considering these techniques, remember this limitation: Walter McCrone, a veteran analyst who heads the McCrone Research Institute in Chicago, says analytical techniques cannot prove that somebody actually painted a work of art. They can, however, rule out that possibility, by proving that the materials used were unavailable when it was supposedly painted.

McCrone was co-editor of an informative 1999 book on art analytical techniques called "Fakebusters" (see bibliography).

Is it blood or is it paint? Walter McCrone says these micrographs (right) prove the Shroud of Turin is paint on linen.
Courtesy Walter McCrone, McCrone Research Institute.

real blood
Real blood (McCrone's) on linen. Note brown color. Magnification 5X.

real paint
Shroud blood on linen. Note the red color unlike blood (left). Magnification 10X.

real blood
A tape of the real blood-image above -- real blood, again brown, unlike the Shroud paint. Magnification 1000X.

real paint
A tape of a Shroud blood-image shows only a red ochre paint. Magnification 1000X.

Want to read about other ways analyze art and detect fraud?

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