Art and Antiquities

Stylistic interpretation and established provenance are commonly used to lend credence to the authenticity of items of artistic or historical significance.  Objective, scientific analysis conducted by Microtrace offers an orthogonal approach to these artistic investigations with the potential to provide unequivocal factual information that can, in many instances, provide clarification to controversial or disputed works.  More specifically, minute samples and in situ analyses of materials from paintings can be used to understand the history of a painting or other work.  Our lab has been trusted to collect and analyze samples from paintings attributed to artists including Monet, Picasso, Calder, Dali, Kandinsky, Klein, among many others.   We have also analyzed antiquities ranging from the stone age to the bronze age as well as more recent memorabilia attributed to historical figures including Abraham Lincoln, Adolf Hitler, Babe Ruth, Shoeless “Joe” Jackson, and Gehrig.  Through these analyses, Microtrace scientists have developed skills in working with delicate materials, identifying them, and interpreting the significance of the results in light of the circumstances of a given item.  We have been trusted with works from museums to conservators to auction houses and dealers to private holdings.  Our reports provide objective and detailed insight into the materials composing these objects and are intended to withstand scientific and legal scrutiny.

Minute Samples

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.

Our analyses draw from imaging methods that include radiography and infrared photography as well as micro-analytical methods that include polarized light microscopy, infrared and Raman microspectroscopy, micro-x-ray fluorescence, scanning electron microscopy-energy dispersive x-ray spectroscopy (among a suite of other methods).

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.

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