Scrimshaw is an occupational art form originated by, or indigenous to, whalemen, utilizing the hard by-products of the whale fishery, ivory, bone and baleen, in some cases combined with other found material. It is comprised of three types: 1) decorative, e.g. engraved or carved teeth or tusks; 2) utilitarian, e.g. tools and tool handles, and 3) a combination of these, e.g. busks, swifts an dippers. This paper is concerned with engraved scrimshaw, principally decorative, and in particular, determination of authenticity. The value of scrimshaw in general, and engraved scrimshaw in particular, has increased markedly in the last quarter century, encouraging forgery, thus making verification of authenticity of increasing importance. Two of the pioneers in the field of scientific detection of forgery of scrimshaw, or scrimshaw forensics, are Dr. Janet West of the Scott Polar Institute, Cambridge University, and Desmund T. Liddy of Australia. It is on their work that our project at the Kendall Whaling Museum is based. All of the methodologies discussed herein discussed herein are visual, the attributes visible to the unaided eye in many cases, augmented by low power stereo microscopy in others.
The problems which the fake or copy present, has received much attention among the art historians, philosophers, and art professionals within the last ten years. This renewed interest has largely focused upon aspects of what constitutes originality or fraud, but also has elucidated the fact that making copies was a common artistic practice during classical antiquity, the Renaissance, the early baroque and most commonly during the post modern period. One academic conference, held in 1985 at National Gallery of Art Symposium, entitled 'Retaining the Original' was focused around the very nature of the question of originality and authenticity. In the introduction to the published paper, Henry Million reminded us, that historically, 'making copies...constituted a major part of the artistic 'enterprise;' copies were valued and costly.
Over the last twenty years, I have served as curator and director of several small and medium size museums including the Helen Foresman Spencer Museum of Art, University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas; the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, Memphis, Tennessee; the Birmingham Museum of Art, Birmingham, Alabama; the San Antonio Museum of Art, San Antonio, Texas, and most recently, the Fuller Museum of Art, Brockton, Massachusetts. The largest budget approached three million dollars, minute in comparison with the Metropolitan Museum of Art of the National Gallery. Our resources were limited and the demands of building maintenance, programs, acquisitions and conservation far outstripped the amount of money available to be spent. Each museum housed between five and thirty thousand art works and generally speaking the collections were eclectic. It is not unusual at these city museums to find extraordinary oddities ranging from the finest Wedgwood collection in the world in Birmingham to the most extensive group of Latin American folk art objects to be found anywhere in San Antonio. Each year museums of comparable size are offered thousands of art works on all shapes and sizes form all periods and cultures. Only rarely does the staff have the expertise to evaluate and determine the authenticity of the eclectic group of objects both in the collection and being offered. With few curators and in many cases even fewer local experts to call upon, the museum professional must be both bold and creative.
A purchaser of fine art often relies on the vendor's representations as to the authorship and provenance of the work. Occasionally the new owner later makes the unpleasant discovery that the treasured work is a fake. The aggrieved purchaser then may demand that eh vendor make good on its assurances concerning the work. If the vendor declines to do so, the purchaser may seek legal redress against the vendor. At that point, the purchaser may find an unexpected barrier to success in the lawsuit. An otherwise sound claim may fail by reason of the statute of limitations -- the legal rule that a lawsuit must commence in a timely fashion. The rule may operate with dismaying rigor to art purchases, given the difficulty in distinguishing an authentic work from an imitation. This paper reviews the effects of statute of limitations claims in litigation involving artworks that do not live up to their promised authenticity. After a brief general introduction to limitations issues generally, the paper examines their varying application to claims regarding fake art.
The basis for determining whether a printed piece is authentic requires a basic knowledge of the characteristics that distinguish one printing process from another and knowing when those processes would have been employed. Generally, no one who intends to counterfeit a printed piece, in order to make his efforts profitable, could use the same identical procedures and process as done with the original. It is almost impossible to perfectly replicate a printed piece wing to the fact that certain materials and tools used in the printing or graphic arts trades have had a limited existence. Knowing the historical background of these resources, understanding of the limitations of the craftsmen and the developments in the field over the last 50 to 60 years makes it possible for one to determine how and when something was printed. Some of these tools that were once almost exclusively sold to the trade ar now common household items. The age of low-cost home computers, computer printers and scanners has opened a whole new and lucrative market for those who see an opportunity to imitate the works of early craftsmen and artists, cashing in on the buyer's naivety.
The purpose of my presentation is to describe to you the major problems confronting us in philately today, to raise your interest in these problems and to ask for your suggestions to solve them. It is not my intention to hold a scientific dissertation. No sooner had the first postage stamps come on the market, in 1840, when the first forgeries appeared. These were to the detriment of the postal authorities as they were used for franking mail. However, only a few years later, stamp collecting began and provided forgers the opportunity to reproduce expensive stamps and t sell them to collectors. But because printing methods differed, these forgeries are relatively easy to identify.
The development of non-destructive material analysis in the field of art and archaeology is described briefly and the applicability of x-ray fluorescence analysis (XRF) to artifacts is discussed. A new instrument based on energy dispersive XRF built at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna enables the analysis of large objects, e.g. easel paintings up to 2 X 3 without taking original sample material.
Art appraisers have a unique spectator's overview of the fine arts marketplace. Not being involved in buying by auctions, galleries, dealers, and even barter. We hear the stories and claims and see the documents of authenticity from almost every source imaginable. The main conclusion is that there is no standard of expertise and authenticity, and providing one may be very difficult indeed.