Showing posts with label painting analysis. Show all posts
Showing posts with label painting analysis. Show all posts

August 13, 2013

Kunsthal Rotterdam Art Theft: Defense Lawyer claims five of the seven paintings can be returned if trial is moved from Romania to The Netherlands (Trial in Bucharest Suspended until September 10)

Lucian Freud, Woman with Eyes Closed, 2002
by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor

The good news is that the alleged thieves have offered to exchange paintings stolen from Kunsthal Rotterdam if their courtroom is moved from Romania to The Netherlands; the bad news is that they are reputedly only offering to produce five of the seven paintings. Despairing news is that Romanian art experts announced yesterday that they found paint pigments only manufactured prior to World War II from the ashes of a stove that a mother of one of the alleged thieves confessed to use to destroy the evidence (paintings) against her son.

We last ran a post about this celebrated theft with the article in The New York Times by Andrew Higgins ("A Trail of Masterpieces and A Web of Lies, Leading to Anguish") in which the reporter described the "stove" as one "used to heat water for the bathroom and the sauna" and described it as "barely a foot wide and far too small to contain what would have been a bulky bundle of canvas and wood". Previous ARCA blog posts described the seven paintings stolen from the Triton Foundation.

Picasso's Head of a Harlequin, 1971
On August 8, an article in [Daily]Mail Online ("Despair etched on art expert's face as he confirms fragments of artwork found in oven ashes were those of stolen paintings by old masters" by Mark Duell and Steve Nolan) showed the "sadness" of Ernest Oberlander-Tarnoveanu, manager of Romania's National History Museum and Gheorghe Niculescu, head of a team of investigative experts, at a news conference in Bucharest. Oberlander-Tarnoveanu reportedly said that 'a probe found traces of 'very old' yellow arsenic, which painters said has not been in common use since Second World War because of its toxicity.'

These are the dates of the stolen paintings: Lucian Freud's Woman with Eyes Closed, 2002; Paul Gauguin's Woman Before a Window, 'The Fiancée', 1888; Henri Matisse's Reading Woman in White and Yellow, 1919; Jacob Meyer De Haan's Self-Portrait against Japonist Background, 1889-1891; Claude Monet's Waterloo Bridge, London, 1901; Monet's Charing Cross Bridge, London, 1901; and Pablo Picasso's Head of a Harlequin, 1971. Only two of the paintings (Freud, Picasso) were painted after World War II.

DutchNews.nl reported August 8 in "Police 'fail to notice' art theft, allowing Kunsthal thieves to escape" that "AD" (A Dutch Media agency) reported police blunders facilitated the getaway of the thieves -- based on 'legal documents and an interview with a lawyer for the defendants': 'The paper says police, alerted by the alarm, carried out an inspection but failed to realise the museum had actually been broken into because the thieves had closed the door behind them.' Other claims include gaps on the walls viewed as changes in the exhibition and a police officer waving to one of the suspects after the robbery. Here in an interview Dutch security expert Ton Cremers cited negligence at Kunsthal Rotterdam.

Finally, on the first day of the trial of the jailed suspects in Romania, Anna Holigan reports in a video from The Hague on BBC News ("Dutch art theft suspects offer paintings for deal") that Romanian art experts fear three to four of the paintings may have been destroyed.  However, BBC reports:
Forensic experts have so far refused to say definitively whether or not the burnt remains were from stolen paintings.... The trial of Radu Dogaru and his five alleged accomplices -- one of whom is still on the run -- was opened and adjourned by the Romanian court until 10 September.... One of the lawyers said their clients had offered to return five of the paintings, with no mention of the remaining two. Another lawyer, Maria Varsii, said: It is more likely the paintings are intact. My client says they can be handed over to the Dutch authorities. In exchange, they want to go on trial in the Netherlands.... The Rotterdam paintings came to light some months [after the October 16 theft] later when Mariana Dragu, an art expert at Romania's National Art Museum, was asked by a friend to examine some artworks he was planning to buy. She said she called the prosecutor's office when she realised she was looking at the stolen originals. A few months later, three Romanian men were arrested on suspicion of involvement, including Radu Dogaru. It was following her son's arrest that Mrs. Dogaru allegedly burned the artworks at her home in the village of Carcaliu, in the Danube Delta region of eastern Romania.


December 8, 2010

Budapest Firm Tondo Examines Paintings Scientifically

Zsófia Végvári, Tondo, Inc.'s Chief Executive Officer holding a painting attributed to Picasso

by Catherine Schofield Sezgin

On her trip to Budapest earlier this month, ARCA’s Director of Public and Institutional Relations, Colette Loll Marvin, toured the facility of Tondo, Inc., a firm specializing in complex painting analysis that contributes to attributions and forgery research. Tondo’s Chief Executive Officer Zsófia Végvári led Marvin through a series of complex tests used to determine the authenticity of a suspected Picasso painting recently discovered by a buyer in the Middle East. The testing can tell the age of the inorganic components, which will be used, along with the judgements of art historians, to make a determination of the authenticity, Végvári told Marvin.

Végvári founded Tondo in 1998. For the past 10 years, Tondo has provided services to cultural institutions and art collectors with an arsenal of mobile, high-tech equipment for analyzing art works. The Complex Painting Analysis Method (CPAM) combined five techniques to help authenticate paintings.

“So far art historians have used only subjective methods to define oil paintings,” said Végvári in a follow-up email. “By using the CPAM methods we offer objective applications instead of these subjective methods. On the auction market, pictures by famous painters change owners for a high price. These highly valuable paintings have been investigated with objective technologies such as X-ray, XRF, and luminescence examinations in a few cases only. However, most of the results do not increase the credibility of the auction market, but facilitate the restoration phase. After investigating the hidden layer and the metal-content of the painting, we can tell whether or not it was repainted in the past. The CPAM offers so- called 'genetic fingerprint' conditions of paintings based on physical and chemical investigations.”

According to Tondo, the technologies used in the Complex Painting Analysis Method: multispectral photography; X-Ray; microscopy; X-ray Fluorescence - Spectroscopy (XRF) examination; and a 3D white light scanner.

With multispectral photography, Tondo uses a normal light at an angle to the painting to examine brush strokes, crackling, and the artist’s signature, Végvári explained. An infrared light can reveal the underdrawing in a painting, she said. “Some pigments, such as lead white or artificial ultramarine, become transparent on infrared shoot,” Végvári explained. "It is clearly seen where different pigments were used."

Ultraviolet light can detect later restorations that appear darker than the aged original varnish layers. “It’s possible to identify any retouchings on top of an aged varnish, since oil paint and newer varnish do not fluoresce under ultraviolet light,” Végvári explained.

“A low radiation x-ray is one of the most important part of our investigation methods,” Végvári said. “X-ray can give information about an artist’s painting techniques, pigments, and under-paintings. The x-ray technique primarily records the structural elements of a painting as it shows the pigment characterizations. An x-ray can also reveal a painting hidden underneath the visible painting.”

According to Végvári, microscopy can give an amazing amount of information about a painting’s structure, based on cross sectional analysis or pigment sampling. In an invasive technology, a sample is cut from the canvas of 1-2 millimeters to show the layers of paint colors and varnish. The cross sectional analysis presents information about the repainted areas and colors as the chronology of the artist’s working methods, including restoration work. Inside of the layers most of the grains of the pigments can be identified. The pigments sampling helps to identify the age of the paint layer based on the size, characterisation, and the components of the pigment grains.

An X-ray Fluorescence - Spectroscopy (XRF) examination can identify most of the pigments used in paint, Végvári explained, and can be compared to known materials and palettes used during certain historical periods and geographical areas. The XRF spectroscopy can date objects and can reveal forged works when the chemical compounds of the paints do not match the alleged date of the artwork. For example, Végvári said, titanium white would not be in a painting in 1912. Titanium white was not available as an artist's pigment until 1924.

"The combination of XRF and microscopy allows 'diagnosing' an artists’ palette," Végvári said. "It is extremely important to make special database about colors used by each artist."

The three-dimensional surface of the artworks can be recorded with the accuracy of microns with a 3D white light scanner manufactured by Breuckmann GMBH in Germany. With this investigation method, according to Végvári, the condition of the paintings, and the distortion of the support or the brushstrokes can be examined in 3D digital data. "This technology also offers a special 3D fingerprint of the artworks," Végvári said. "It is a special 'mark' for the painting while the status of the surface is captured. The 3D information cannot be forged; so the artwork can be identified over time."