Art Fraud: Recognizing Authenticity in Art
Recognizing the authenticity of an art object is as fascinating as it is complex. The classic approach, which studies style, is supported by numerous new methods of scientific investigation and by the ability to use our senses: sight, touch, smell, hearing, and to a much lesser extent, taste, substituted by our “sixth sense.”
An overview will be given on the methods used by the Museo d’Arte e Scienza of Milan in its day-to-day activities to ascertain authenticity, illustrated by an ample number of cases studies. The lecture will demonstrate how such investigations are based on intuition, logic, and the results of rigorous scientific and sensorial analyses.
The Observer Effects series invites thinkers to present their highly integrative work in dialogue with the fields of art and science. This lecture series takes its title from a popularized principle in physics that holds that the act of observation transforms the observed. Outside the natural sciences, the idea that the observer and the observed are linked in a web of reciprocal modification has been deeply influential in philosophy, aesthetics, psychology, and politics.
Since 1996, Peter Matthaes has worked at the Museo D’Arte e Scienza, founded by his father Gottfried. He has dedicated himself to the scientific laboratory, where scientific analyses are carried out to ascertain the authenticity of art objects.
After obtaining a master’s degree in chemistry with a dissertation dedicated to art, he spent several years refining a new infrared spectroscopic wood-dating method (patent G. Matthaes, 1993). At the same time, he continued his training in the museum, becoming increasingly involved with the collections, didactic activities, general management, and special events.
Since becoming head of the laboratory, Matthaes has conducted hundreds of scientific appraisals each year. He receives commissions from various parts of the world, for which he often has to travel to carry out analyses. Registered in the list of Court-appointed Technical Consultants (CTU) and experts of the Court of Milan, he provides technical opinions to Italian and foreign courts. He has also contributed to the preparation of the various books published by the museum, particularly those of a scientific nature.