Carbon dating uncovers forged Cubist painting

Feb 25, 2014

Choosing the right physical technique to analyse paintings can make all the difference when it comes to ascertaining their authenticity. Now, a painting initially attributed as belonging to a series called 'Contraste de formes' by French Cubist painter Fernand Léger has definitely been identified as a forgery.

This is the first time it has been possible to identify a fake painting by relying on the anomalous behaviour of the concentration of the radioactive form of carbon (14C) in the atmosphere after 1955 to date the canvas. These findings were recently published in EPJ Plus by Mariaelenea Fedi of the National Institute of Nuclear Physics (INFN) in Florence, Italy, and colleagues.

Previously, art historians had called upon scientists to compare the alleged Léger painting from the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, in Venice, Italy, with an authentic painting of the 'Contraste de formes' series belonging to the Solomon Guggenheim Foundation in New York, USA.

They performed tests based on techniques including X-ray radiography and scanning electron microscope and energy dispersive X-Ray spectrometry. Though they demonstrated that the fibres in the canvases differed and that different pigments were used in the two paintings, they did not arrive at conclusive evidence.

This study shows that it was necessary to perform an analysis using of a sample of the canvas to conclusively date the . This approach definitely proved that the canvas sample contains a level of radioactive carbon found in 1959, years after Léger's death in 1955. The authors relied on the particularities of 14C concentration in the atmosphere, which are well-known for the period ranging from the mid-1950s to the present. They are referred to as the Bomb Peak, due to the atmospheric nuclear power tests.

Explore further: Best of Last Week–Can space travel faster than light, another planet behind the Sun and should we allow head transplants

More information: European Physical Journal Plus, DOI: 10.1140/epjp/i2014-14006-6

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Lab detectives help expose art fakes

Feb 14, 2014

In under two weeks, the art world has been rocked by cases of forgery in which paintings with a potential value of millions were unmasked as worthless fakes.

Imaging method for eye disease used to eye art forgeries

Feb 03, 2010

Scientists in Poland are describing how a medical imaging technique has taken on a second life in revealing forgery of an artist's signature and changes in inscriptions on paintings that are hundreds of years ...

Recommended for you

Bribery 'hits 1.6 billion people a year'

Feb 27, 2015

A total of 1.6 billion people worldwide – nearly a quarter of the global population – are forced to pay bribes to gain access to everyday public services, according to a new book by academics at the Universities of Birmingham ...

How music listening programmes can be easily fooled

Feb 26, 2015

For well over two decades, researchers have sought to build music listening software that can address the deluge of music growing faster than our Spotify-spoilt appetites. From software that can tell you ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.