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Detecting Art Forgeries

The creation of art forgeries has taken place for centuries. As you might expect, the reproduction of an exact copy of a work of art is an excellent way of honing an artistís skill. It is only when a work of art is reproduced with the intention to deceive that it is considered a crime.

How do experts detect forgeries? Methods range from the administrative to the scientific analysis of the work of art. Needless to say, the more skilled the forger, the more knowledge and resources are required to detect the forgery.

Close examination of the style of the artwork is one very basic way to detect a forgery. For example, in a painting, the brush strokes can be analyzed to determine if they are similar in style to previous work created by the artist. Clumsy forgeries can be detected immediately by such an examination.

Tracing the paper trail of a famous work of art is another way to detect if an artwork is authentic. If there is no evidence of previous sales or auctions and the work seems to have come ďfrom nowhere,Ē it is likely to be a fake.

An analysis of craquelure is often used to determine the authenticity of paintings since it is difficult to reproduce. Craquelure is the fine pattern of cracks that form in paintings over time. The pattern of craquelure is surprisingly location-oriented since it reflects the environmental conditions experienced by the painting as well as how it was handled and stored.

When it is imperative that authenticity be established, more scientific methods can be employed to detect forgeries. Since the composition of paints and metals have evolved over the centuries, an analysis of the materials used in paintings and sculptures often proves useful. A scanning electron microscope can detect the presence or absence of substances that were or were not available or commonly used during a particular time period. Infrared analysis or x-ray fluorescence can also be used to determine the purity of paints and metals.

If the fingers are used in a painting or sculpture, it is often possible to compare the fingerprints to others found in that artistís work.

Radio carbon-dating, based upon the radioactive decay of carbon atoms, is a method used for determining the age of very ancient works of art.

Despite the vast array of methods available to detect forgeries, experts often experience great difficulty determining the authenticity of a work of art if the forger is just as knowledgeable about the work of the artist and has the resources available at his disposal to create it.

A recent case of large-scale art forgery was the work of Britainís John Drewe. From the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s, Drewe directed the creation of at least 200 forgeries of paintings by world famous artists as well as accompanying false documentation.

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Diana Blake is a professional artist and art history enthusiast. Her fascination with art history began when she encountered European art firsthand during several trips abroad as a young adult. As she began to compose a portfolio for her own art career, she called upon what she had seen in Europe and extended her knowledge to other styles of art through profuse reading and exhaustive research. As a result, Diana has written more than one hundred articles in which she delves into a variety of art history topics and she has compiled a list of links that she believes to be invaluable for art history enthusiasts. In addition, she also reviews books and movies on the topic of art history and has assembled an extensive list of online stores that sell books, movies and gift items related to art history.
   You can see Diana's own artwork by visiting her site at