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FORENSIC    METHODOLOGIES
&
THE USE OF TECHNOLOGIES

This section details the application of forensic technologies that can be used to determine attributions. The researcher will note that among all current technologies, only Digital Brushstroke Analysis will provide a irrefutable and conclusive result.
   Although there are numerous technologies that can provide supporting evidence for attribution, or even positively eliminate fakes, they can be limited in researching attributions. A certain forensic technology may provide a definitive result, however the answer can still be proven inconclusive as to attribution and only be regarded as supportive evidence.
    Twenty-first century technology allows researchers to make giant strides towards accuracy in painting attribution. The proprietary software used by Veritus provides a visible horizon for evaluation of attributions. The technology eliminates unwarranted bias, human error, outright fraud and other problems that have plagued art attributions through the centuries.
    Computers make dispassionate, digital decisions based upon facts. Computers are not influenced by social pressures or vested interests. Computers do not own paintings that they would like to see attributed to a certain artist. The person who purchases computer research can not place a computer under pressure to make different decisions. In this fashion, computers become the perfect arbitrator of facts and administrator of judgments.
    Veritus has adopted the philosophy of conservatism. To receive a Veritus Digital Certificate a painting must be established beyond any doubt to be the work of the designated artist. No painting is attributed by Veritus unless its research data conclusively determines the work is by the hand of the designated artist.

Panel and Canvas Dating

"...very scientifically interesting but have no value..." The trend to examine panels to determine a picture's date and origin has been growing. Similar research into "canvas" fiber examination and thread count is also popular. However, the master and his students generally purchased from the same sources. Paintings sometimes appear on panels that are of strange or unexpected woods as artists or craftsmen traveled widely.
    Famous forgers of the last century purchased old paintings of low value and then repainted over the surface. Paintings were sometimes transferred to canvas or onto a panel long after their original execution. Studies involving panels and canvas fibers are scientifically interesting and have exposed some recent forgeries but have no value in determining painting authorship.

Paint Chemical Analysis

This technology has proven quite important in the determination of later forgeries. It also allows for a more accurate reading of X-ray technologies. However, since most of the artists in an area purchased their paint from the same sources, paint chemical analysis does not provide any definitive information about authorship.

Paint Build-up Analysis

Veritus has used digital analysis to evaluate paint build-up and other qualities. The results of this analysis are far from conclusive. However, data gleaned may someday be very useful to restaurateurs.

Digital Color Palette Analysis

"By the time experts gain the training and experience to make scholarly evaluation, they often no longer have the physical ability to do so with great accuracy." This technology has proven quite promising as a supportive technology in determining authorship. It is a well established fact that each person perceives color in a slightly different fashion. This is why one person will say that a color is greenish blue while another will argue that the color is bluish green. Color palettes are often strong indicators of authorship. As an example El Greco during his Italian period painted very fine copies of art works that he studied. These art works are often identified through their palette colors. Color usage has long been an important tool of the "expert" in determining attribution.
    An exceptionally gifted expert can identify several thousand different colors. Unfortunately, human perception and abilities diminish with age. This truism has historically created a difficult problem when it comes to attributing works of art. By the time experts gain the training and experience to make scholarly evaluation, they often no longer have the physical ability to do so with great accuracy. Alternatively, the Veritus computer analysis program is capable of identifying several million colors with startling accuracy. Varnish colors and age-induced defects are digitally subtracted to see the original color palette of the artist. This digital standard is more than two thousand times more accurate than the very best of human eyes.
    The Veritus color analysis program makes a careful evaluation of the exact colors used in various paintings, particularly of those pigments that are not uniformly mixed. This analysis becomes extremely important when determining attributions, because the color palette used by an artist normally evolves slowly as the artist uses particular paints. Artists also experiment with different color combinations, and these combinations can be tracked through a series of paintings. Consequently, paintings from close to the same period of time often have nearly identical base color palettes. The application of this digital technology, also, becomes not only a valuable tool for determining the authorship of a work but, additionally, for dating the work. The weakness of this color analysis technology is that it is always inconclusive when used alone. Consequently, it becomes a useful tool only when applied to confirm other evidence. The limitations of this technology appear at another area within this Website.
Digital Brushstroke Analysis
"...makes it possible to detect, on occasion, when the same paintbrush was used on more than one painting." This technology is the foundation of attributions at Veritus. The technological ability to conduct this research has existed for many years; however, until recently its application was never cost effective. Breakthroughs in the area of higher math, specifically the use of algorithms, has made this form of research cost effective for the more important artists. With the advent of modern computers and the use of pattern recognition algorithms, similar to those used in the human genome project, research that used to take months of computer time can now be completed in hours.
    This method of examination has often proven to be as identifying as a human fingerprint. The technology allows for comparisons of key features and nuances consistently appearing in individual brushstrokes. The core of this technology is pattern recognition algorithms. When very large numbers of brushstrokes are compared, definitive patterns emerge. The computer effects these brushstroke comparisons at a rate of millions of comparisons per second. This proprietary technology is roughly similar to an OCR program but infinitely more sophisticated. It becomes increasing efficient as the database increases. The sophistication of this technology makes it possible to detect, on occasion, when the same paintbrush was used on more than one painting. It is similar to the forensic examination of a bullet. Some bristles leave distinctive patterns that are reproduced on more than one painting. Although this technology is used primarily to determine who painted the picture, it can, additionally, be employed to provide an indication of relative timing. For example, if the same brush is used to paint two different paintings but one of the marker bristles is missing in one of the paintings, that painting would have been painted later. Bristles can be lost from brushes but cannot be replaced.
    The same technology allows for the examination of palette knife marks; unfortunately, palette knife analysis has proven inconclusive in all cases to date. Thumb smudges have been examined, although this analysis has proven inconclusive with one exception. A later period work was discovered to have a fragment of a thumb print that almost exactly matched a fragment on an earlier very well documented work.
    A number of paintings were found to be by the hand of more than two artists. The same hand painted the heads, and the clothing was painted by a different artist, while the hands were painted by a third artist. Some paintings included the distinctive brush strokes of the master and at the same time included the distinctive brushstrokes of other artists. These paintings have, thereby, been attributed to the "Studio of."
Results and Implications
"...positively identified a number of paintings that previously were resting under incorrect attributions." Veritus is able to use color palette analysis and digital brushstroke analysis to work in both directions historically to provide a stronger basis for attribution. These two technologies have formed a foundation for much of the work accomplished, positively identifying a large number of paintings that previously were resting under incorrect attributions. To say that some of these results are surprising would be a gross understatement.
    Even with state-of-the-art equipment, the process requires lengthy computational time to make the comparisons and build the database. Veritus applies information gleaned from each computer run to increase its database of experience. This technique sometimes allows paintings with inconclusive results to later be attributed with complete confidence.
    Problems occur with paintings that are damaged and/or heavily over-painted. After many computer runs with an ever-expanding database, Veritus has developed a level of confidence in a larger number of paintings. Veritus readily acknowledges that there could be a genuine, original paintings that has not been attributed conclusively due to the lack of enough original surface to provide an authoritative attribution. This problem becomes a philosophical issue. At what point is there an insufficient portion of the original remaining to declare the painting an original? Veritus makes no solo attributions when there is insufficient original surface to determine that the foreground and background were painted by the same person. Veritus chooses to take a different direction from those who would rather see the errors on the more generous attribution side. For maintaining, Veritus makes no apology.

The Future

"The Internet, as we know it today, did not yet exist." The difficulty for many is to understand both the limitations and possibilities of twenty-first century technology. Certainly, this technology provides much accurate information, but this technology is not an end in itself. It is still, impossible for a computer to evaluate artistic genius.
    With the conception of this project, there was no intent on the part of Veritus to produce its various committee findings on the Internet. The Internet, as we know it today, did not yet exist. Yet, as the Internet has developed, Veritus and its various artist committees, have grown and changed with the technology of the day. With this growth and change have come the awareness that this Catalogue Raisonné must reflect the unlimited ability to record information that twenty-first century technology provides. Therefore, inclusions in these Catalogue Raisonnés will be regularly updated as research and findings are broadened and enhanced.
    Veritus looks forward to the changes and the contributions that the new technologies of the forthcoming century will make to historical art scholarship. The various research committees are committed to providing an ongoing analysis of the paintings attributed to the masters they study, supported by technology rather than human opinion. Veritus is challenged to be on the cutting-edge of this technology and is committed to providing information that is both accurate and current.
 
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