Revealed: Art's forgeries, fakes and mistakes

Fri Jul 2, 2010 5:03am EDT
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By Isabel Coles

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - A phony Botticelli, a faux Rembrandt, a Holbein hoax alongside other forgeries, fakes and mistakes come under the microscope in the latest exhibition at London's National Gallery.

"Close Examination: Fakes, Mistakes and Discoveries" explores the art of forgery and its detection in the first major exhibition of its kind, where 40 works which have been vetted by the gallery's scientific department go on display.

"Roughly 40 percent of the National Gallery's collection of around 2,500 paintings has had some form of technical examination carried out," the gallery's Director of Scientific Research Ashok Roy told Reuters in an e-mail.

Usually, art historians, scientists and restorers stay behind the scenes. But "Close Examination" reveals the expertise of the gallery's scientific research department, considered a world leader in the study of the materials and techniques of Western European paintings.

Modern scientific methods such as infrared imaging, X-ray, electron microscopy and mass spectrometry have helped answer questions that vexed the gallery's curators for years.

The exhibition spans six rooms: Deception and Deceit; Transformations and Modifications; Mistakes; Secrets and Conundrums; Redemption and Recovery and a room focusing on Botticelli.

To the untrained eye, the forged paintings look like authentic masterpieces, but hidden under the layers of paint lies a different story.