Is The Painting You Own Authentic? Here's What You Need To Know About Scientific Authentication For Art And Why It's Important

Posted on: 18 February 2021


When determining the authenticity of a painting, art curators typically rely on its provenance. This is a record of the painting's entire history, including who bought it, who sold it and what galleries it may have been displayed in. Unfortunately, not all works of art will have an intact provenance, which brings their authenticity into question. If you have a painting that's a family heirloom, you may have no idea where it originally came from.

Thankfully, it's easy to help prove that your painting is genuine even without an ironclad provenance. Scientific techniques can be used to determine if the painting is likely to be a genuine creation by the artist it's attributed to, which helps to prove its authenticity. To learn more about how scientific authentication for art works and why you should have your paintings authenticated, read on.

How Can Art Be Authenticated Scientifically?

When a professional is attempting to determine whether or not a piece of art is authentic, the first step is to use non-invasive spectroscopy to discover the age and composition of the materials that were used to create it. A spectroscope will shine light on the painting that's being authenticated, and the reflected light from the painting will be caught by a lens in the spectroscope. The wavelengths of the reflected light will be recorded in a graph and stored in a computer.

By comparing these wavelengths to other works by the artist that are known to be authentic, spectroscopy can be used to see if the canvas and pigments match what the artist was using when they were painting works during their career. If the materials match, then it lends credence to the painting being authentic. If the materials don't match, then it's likely that the painting is a forgery.

Unfortunately, spectroscopy can only be used to prove that a painting is a forgery. Some forgers use period-authentic materials for their paintings, which will fool spectroscopy. Thankfully, scientific authentication for art can go further than relying on spectroscopy alone. A computer can perform style authentication on a work of art to characterize every single brush stroke that was used to create it.

The force, direction, and amount of paint on the brush when the stroke was created can all be measured digitally, and these values can be compared to other works that the artist has made. It's very difficult for forgers to perfectly copy an artist's brush techniques, so style authentication can help prove that a work of art is genuine rather than a copy made by a forger.

Why Should You Have Your Art Scientifically Authenticated?

If you're unsure of the authenticity of a painting that you own, scientific validation is a way of guaranteeing its value. When you have a painting appraised, its estimated value is only accurate if the painting is genuine. If you decide to sell the painting at an auction or in a closed sale, having a certificate of authenticity will reassure buyers that the painting is likely genuine.

In addition, it's also useful to have a painting authenticated for insurance purposes. If your painting is covered by your homeowners insurance, for example, having a certificate of authenticity gives you a way to prove to your insurance company that the painting was worth as much as it was appraised for.

Whether the painting is an old family heirloom or something you've found at an estate sale, it's always a good idea to have it scientifically authenticated to help prove that it's genuine. If you own a painting and you're unsure if it was truly created by the artist it's attributed to, contact a company that provides scientific authentication service for art. Having your painting scientifically authenticated is inexpensive, and all the techniques used are non-invasive — there's no risk of damaging your painting in any way by having it authenticated.