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In 2007, The Christian Science Monitor reported on Cornell University computer scientist Richard Johnson's efforts to apply a mathematical process to the science of verification: By analyzing a database of 101 paintings by the artist and his known imitators, the scientists have arrived at what they say are key elements of Van Gogh's "visual signature," which can be distilled into numbers.This, they say, will give art experts an important new tool to assess works like "Vase With Fifteen Sunflowers." They can compare how closely a disputed painting's visual signature matches the baseline "signature" derived from the database....Art house Sotheby's says it has reimbursed the buyer of "An Unknown Man," a painting believed to be by Dutch master Frans Hals, for the full .8 million after tests revealed that the work was a forgery.The art house's doubts over its authenticity stemmed from a Paris judge's decision in March to order the seizure of "Venus," a painting attributed to Lucas Cranach the Elder and dated to 1532, from an exhibition in Aix-en-Provence.After suspicions emerged about the Hals' authenticity, Sotheby's concluded that it was a fraud after carrying out a pigmentation test – a term that encompasses a wide range of techniques, though the idea behind them is similar: by analyzing the composition of the materials used in the body of the painting, and sometimes the method of their application, experts can figure out whether they correspond to the date of the work itself.One technique, developed in 2008 by Russian scientists, tests for the presence of two radioactive isotopes released during the bombings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki."The tests are almost never going to prove a positive [attribution]," said Sharon Flescher, an art historian and executive director of the International Foundation for Art Research, in an interview with the Journal.Styrian pumpkin seed oil, a specialty of southeastern Austria that can cost upward of for a handful of ounces, is another food that has been traced in a similar manner.
The authors relied on the particularities of 14C concentration in the atmosphere, which are well-known for the period ranging from the mid-1950s to the present.
Choosing the right physical technique to analyse paintings can make all the difference when it comes to ascertaining their authenticity.
Now, a painting initially attributed as belonging to a series called 'Contraste de formes' by French Cubist painter Fernand Léger has definitely been identified as a forgery.
That the Hals managed to slip past the discerning eye of experts may be a testament not only to the forger's mastery – art historian Bendor Grosvenor told the Financial Times that he believed it was "the best ever" – but also to the vulnerability of the market for pieces by old masters.
"In this case a number of [expert analysts] have been proven to have got it completely wrong," Mr. "That will obviously have profound ramifications for not only the Old Master market but the Old Master world itself."It also illustrates the importance of increasingly sophisticated forensic science in art historians' attempts to distinguish real from fake.
Independent analyses have shown the contents of many bottles to be shams; rare-earth element analysis is considered an effective technique for ID'ing samples "even from very small regions." These sorts of chemical analyses have been applied to products as wide ranging as tomatoes, dairy products, and honey to determine geographical origin.