Authentication and Evaluation of Paintings


Is the painting authentic? Is it hand copied from an original? Does it have a fake signature?

Consider this opening sentence from a July 17, 2009 article in the Wall Street Journal titled "The Fine Art of Fakery - How doctored papers and house paint laced with jelly resulted in a far-reaching fraud" by Ian Brunskill:

Thomas Hoving, the former director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, once estimated that of the many thousands of artworks he had viewed in the course of his career, fully 40%, from all periods, were mis-attributed, restored beyond recognition or outright fakes.

TFAO's approach to this subject is to provide to readers, wherever possible, ways of taking advantage of information on the Web.

Even if you have proved that a painting is an "original," that doesn't mean is it painted by the artist you think painted it. For more valuable paintings (e.g., tens of thousands of dollars and beyond) a buyer or owner may want an authentication report. The more famous the artist -- and the more expensive the art -- the higher the risk of forgery. Even highly trained art dealers and museum officials get caught with fakes -- sometimes way more than they wish to discuss. There are truly brilliant forgers. Many of them live offshore, are very well trained, and produce duplicates that are hard to distinguish from the "real thing." As forgers become more proficient in their trade, fewer experts are willing to give definitive opinions about authenticity. Collectors have to either become comfortable with this risk or pursue another passion. Some collectors are comforted by working with reputable dealers who will buy back art of questionable authenticity. Collectors are advised to have a firm understanding of a dealer's buy-back policy and secure an agreement in writing. Insurance may also limit risk, if available.

Preliminary evaluation work that you can do yourself, based on the name of an artist or other information, can inform you as to whether your painting has enough potential for professional authentication.

Steps you can take:


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While Traditional Fine Art Organization, Inc (TFAO) does not provide authentication services, the information in this report is provided as a public service and may be of help to readers studying approaches to authentication and evaluation of their works of art.

Links to sources of information outside of our website are provided only as referrals for your further consideration. Please use due diligence in judging the quality of information contained in these and all other websites. Information from linked sources may be inaccurate or out of date. TFAO neither recommends or endorses these referenced organizations. Although TFAO includes links to other web sites, it takes no responsibility for the content or information contained on those other sites, nor exerts any editorial or other control over them. For more information on evaluating online information see TFAO's General Resources section in Online Resources for Collectors and Students of Art History.

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