When I started in the art world coming on 30 years ago it was a nefarious business, more lovejoy than antiques roadshow that's for sure. Now we have a world full of technology that has changed the business forever in the form of the Internet and technical testing, so have these two massive advances helped our industry to be better, more professional and easier?
Lets take a look:
Don't you hate articles about art testing that you don't even understand the words? In this article you will not get that, you may be pleased to hear.
In my second blog you may have read we are moving forward with a portrait of Henry VII that may very well be a lost masterpiece from a long forgotten royal palace, our next stage is to technical test the painting, so what are we going to actually do?
16thc / 17thc Portrait Tudor King Henry VII 7th (b1457-d1509) CIRCLE OF HOLBEIN
All tests remember are open to interpretation so nothing in art investigation individually is conclusive, we are trying to prove, like all the very best CSI episodes that the painting must be the missing mural, beyond reasonable doubt and the first wave of the investigation is to try and place it slap bang in the period we want it in, the early 16th century.
We have to get behind the layers on later addition black paint and that will need an X ray and a very clever camera that can actually see behind the layers of paint. Maybe, just maybe it will uncover some hidden gem which will steer us in the right direction.
We know the frame is later so we will not be touching that, and we are at this moment investigating the canvas, the thread count and the material, that may very well give us some of the answers. Once these tests are complete and analysed we can start the leg work, the real detective job and that's the hard part as anyone who has tried to do anything like this will tell you. It's almost like logging onto Ancestry.co.uk and trying to find great auntie Mabel from 1529! But that's our job and that's what we are good at. Finding out information others can't.
So is technology a big help to us since we have had it in our tool kit?
Well, the business is certainly better for it in some ways. It's a more international business, for example, I am writing this in Phoenix Arizona and you may be reading this in Poland. Sadly we have lost so many of the high street antiques shops due to technology but it hasn't made the business worse, just different and every business has to grow up, move on and change with the way the world operates. Also, it's easier to expose the fakers, forgers, sharks and charlatans so possibly the business is more professional than almost 30 years ago when I started.
As for tech testing? It helps a lot but we must remember that fakers and forgers have access to the same equipment we have so just because an item passes the tech tests doesn't mean it's the real deal. The best forgers remember haven't been caught yet, if they ever will, so when the stakes are high we have to use the only three tools in our tool box tech testing, professional opinion and provenance.
So keep reading and we will tell you what we have found out very soon in another blog. In the meantime I am in Phoenix Arizona USA authenticating for an auction house called J.Levine auction and appraisal and there will be some great stories coming soon, for now I'm just excited to be working with such diverse items from art to antiques to collectables.
For now just Keep enjoying the blog and LoveAntiques.com.
THE TREASURE DETECTIVE