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The 4th edition of the Master in Legal Archeology and Crimes against Cultural Heritage, based in Rome, will begin in March 2018.
This course, organized by the CSC, “Center for Criminological, Legal and Sociological Studies” of Viterbo, in collaboration with the “Osservatorio Internazionale Archeomafie”, aims to prepare professional profiles on the objectives, modus operandi, strategies and dynamics of criminal organizations dedicated to theft and illicit international trafficking of cultural heritage works. Since last year, Art–Test has the pleasure of being part of the teaching staff of the Master, which includes both training meetings, in the classroom and in the field, and individual work of distance learning and research.
From the 2nd edition, part of the teaching focuses on the scientific techniques of evaluation and recognition of works of art; here Art-Test brings its contribution to this course.
In January and November 2017 we spoke about the scientific techniques that can be used for the dating of artistic and architectural assets, and the use of instrumental analysis for the identification of origin and the recognition of fakes.
Art-Test presented several case studies, to demonstrate how these techniques are used in real situations. We have underlined the importance of a correct and careful interpretation of data, which requires both meticulous comparisons between the different types of analyses carried out and the knowledge of each scientific technique. Furthermore, it is essential to formulate a step-by-step diagnostic plan, carefully prepared according to each specific situation.
For more information on this interesting course:
The “Salvator Mundi”, recently rediscovered and attributed to Leonardo, goes to auction at Christie’s, with an estimated value of about $ 100M. Will it be sold? Will it come back to Italy? With all the spotlights on this painting, someone started playing devil’s advocate, questioning the authorship, pointing to some alleged mistakes in the representation of the orb that Christ holds with his left hand. However, several copies are known similarly representing the orb, moreover it seems that what is not taken into account are the scientific and technical results presented by Dianne Modestini – who directed the restoration –during the conference on the occasion of the great monograph exposition in London in 2012. During her talk, she illustrated how a major part of the painting was damaged and how in the orb area most superficial layers, those building the orb, were lost. Modestini writes in the volume “Leonardo da Vinci’s technical practice” (edited by M. Menu, Hemann editors), about some white touches, probably related to the reflections of an external light, now unfortunately out of context, but also about the typical inclusions of rock crystal, visible in the part covering the hand, that are manically painted and certainly are to be related to Leonardo. So the orb, still the center of discussion, is for her the witness of Leonardo’s hand.
With regard to the materials used, from the 8 samples extracted, a double gesso and glue stratigraphy was visualized for preparation layer, and as far as the pigments are concerned, various types of black, lapis lazuli, red lacquer and white lead and cinnabar for the flesh tones have been identified. And a nice bit of glass probably used as a siccative. All compatible materials and techniques. A curiosity: the background probably was not as black as it is now, but green. Imaging diagnostics then showed some small repentance, for example in the position of the thumb of the blessing hand. Is this sufficient enough to consider it original? Certainly such evidences are more grounded than those relating to alleged stylistic errors in the orb. Art–Test has worked on several Leonardo paintings, such as the “Musician” of the Pinacoteca Ambrosiana in Milano (of which diagnostic results were presented at the same conference in London), the Scapigliata and other works attributed to Leonardo, like the Caprotti’s Christ. In fact, we would have expected a more elaborate preparatory drawing. Perhaps we are not alone, and perhaps that’s why experts at Christie’s write about “many big and small changes,” and the “dramatic shift” of the thumb position, with too much emphasis.
(For a comparison click here.)
Art-Test has been called to shed light on the matter in a small church near Florence
Who painted the “Pietà di Marcialla”? The issue has been debated for many years, but only on last 9th of May the first analyses were carried out on the wall painting in Santa Maria a Marcialla, a small church on the Florentine countryside.
Despite its remote location, the painting is of remarkable quality and some scholars believe it to be the work of Michelangelo Buonarroti. So finally the Municipality of Barberino Val d’Elsa decided to investigate the claim, by promoting objective studies conducted with scientific devices.
Art-Test Florence, in charge of the investigations, during the first survey could confirm the presence of many incisions to be connected with the transferring of the preparatory drawing onto the wall and, moreover, the existence of some “pentimenti” concerning e.g. the lower arm and the left leg of Christ. Furthermore, new details emerged from a first careful examination of the painting, e.g. the depiction of a city walled with towers, located between the Good Thief and Our Lady.
Much more needs investigation. It is not yet clear, e.g., which pictorial technique was used to perform the work, i.e. if is it a real “fresco” or not. Moreover, based on the analyses made so far, it is not certain whether it was painted only by one hand or more painters contributed. This first diagnostic campaign was only the first act of the full scientific campaign that awaits this painting. The town of Barberino Val d’Elsa, by the will of its Mayor Trentanovi, shall support the next studies meant to fully understand the genesis of the work, the adopted art techniques , the material composition of the painting and the possible overlay of more versions. Eager to find out more? So are we! We will keep you up to date!
The trade of fake artworks is a crime. But what is a fake, and how can you recognize it?
Last January 14th Art-Test Florence held a lecture on“TECHNIQUES OF SCIENTIFIC DATING – Artistic and architectural heritage, artworks origin analysis and false works recognition through scientific testing. Case Studies”.
The Master in “Judicial frauds and Crimes against Archaeology and Cultural Heritage” promoted by the Center for Criminologist, sociologists and legal Studies, Department of Cultural Heritage and Archeomafie, in collaboration with “International Observatory Archeomafie”, aims to provide adequate training on the dynamics, strategies, objectives and modus operandi of those who in, a criminal manner, are dedicated to looting, theft and illicit trafficking of cultural goods. At the same time it aims at informing on how to recognize and evaluate works of art by scientific means, specifically devised for the identification of fakes.
Art-Test presented to a group of students including archaeologists, historians, lawyers and tourist guides, the multiplicity of analytical aspects relevant to identify inauthentic artworks, starting from the concept of fake, through the study of several examples in which various analytical techniques have been applied. Knowledge is power, also to defeat the illicit.
A new course is starting on the 25th of March. Interested? Apply here:
The eye is not enough but an incomplete diagnostics campaign is also not enough
We say that the best way to assess the essence of a person is to look into their eyes, which are the mirror of the soul.
But these same eyes, when used to judge a work of art, may be an insufficient tool, or be deceived.
More and more often we read about “fake paintings discoveries”.
A few weeks ago, for example, the news appeared of the return to the unculpable purchaser, by Sotheby’s, of a large sum of money received from the sale of an alleged Frans Hals. And it seems that this is not the only painting that had the same fate, in fact the batch would comprise 25 works, all fakes.
The chronicles report that this painting was declared authentic not only by experts of the auction house, but also by art historians who examined it during the “export certification” procedure.
It turns out that their study made use also of an imaging diagnostic campaign. We read that the painting was analyzed with ultraviolet, infrared and X-ray radiations. Then how is it possible that that a fake was certified authentic? Perhaps the diagnostic campaign was not sufficient, or the images have not been correctly interpreted?
Art-Test always suggests including an analysis of the materials used.
This to verify whether they were available in the period in which it is assumed that the work has been done, and to evaluate their compatibility with the modus operandi of the artist proposed.
Analyses are always useful. They must be professionally done and presented with the utmost transparency. Lately in the catalog of Sotheby’s upcoming auction of old masters, a reflectography image appeared along the picture of the painting. Is this the beginning of a new chapter in the art authenticity quest? We hope so, since we love our work and art alike!