Art, Antiquities & Collectibles
While stylistic interpretation and established provenance are commonly used to lend credence to the authenticity of items of artistic or historical significance, scientific analysis offers an orthogonal approach with the potential to provide unequivocal factual information that can, in many instances, provide clarification to controversial or disputed works. Microtrace scientists have developed skills in working with delicate materials, identifying them, and interpreting the significance of the results in light of the circumstances.
Microtrace scientists are able to collect and analyze samples of a size that are generally undetectable by the naked eye. In many cases, these samples remain intact following analysis and can be returned to the owner should future analyses be required.
Artwork and Paintings
Binders, pigments, and extenders (or fillers) are the most commonly studied components of paintings; however, such analyses are not limited to paintings alone. We have also conducted analyses of dyes in textiles, textiles themselves, and numerous other media. In restorative work, it is often necessary to identify plastics, wood, inks, or other materials to ensure that restoration methods are compatible with existing materials and that restoration materials are consistent with original media. We teach classes in binder and pigment identification and have published extensively on the identification of dyes and pigments. We also maintain extensive reference collections of materials relevant to such investigations.
Over the years, Microtrace has worked on many notable works and artists (we are unable to discuss specifics of many of these for confidentiality reasons). Discoveries in Modern Art has written an article about Microtrace’s use of forensic techniques to analyze artworks and uncover forgeries. We encourage you to read the article here.
Ancient artwork often consists of stone sculptures, bronzes or other natural materials (such as jade). In many cases, dating such objects provides little information since the materials are themselves ancient and provide little insight into the time at which they were worked. We have found, in numerous instances, that a detailed analysis of encrustations, corrosion products, or debris on the surfaces of such objects can provide insights into whether such patinas are aged or modern.
Items ranging from holocaust era lampshades alleged to be made of human skin, to Hitler’s personal effects, to a baseball signed by most of the infamous 1919 Blacksox, to a letter signed by Lincoln in the hours before he signed the Emancipation Proclamation have been submitted to Microtrace scientists to provide insight into their authenticity. These analyses have focused on the examination of minute amounts of ink, fiber, paper, tissue, and other components to determine if a material is consistent with its age.
A range of objects including baseball bats, jerseys, and balls from various sports have been studied. While these analyses have often involved the analysis of ink on signatures, we have also examined the objects themselves for evidence of age and construction materials. Examples of objects that have been studied include objects signed by Lou Gerhig, Shoeless Joe Jackson, and Joe DiMaggio.