Authentication and Evaluation
What is the condition of the painting? 
- If the painting is on canvas and there is no paper behind
the canvas, check the back of the canvas for very small holes, patches,
or repairs that are not visible from the front side. Then take the painting
outdoors and hold it up to the bright sunlight looking through the back
side of the canvas. Cracks in the surface and other defects will show up
that you are unable to see indoors looking at either the front or back
of the painting.
- If you look at the front surface of the painting with
a safe ultraviolet or "black" light in a darkened room you can
see highlighted areas of overprinting, inpainting and other indicators
of the history and condition of the paint. Well, maybe. Crooks can apply
a layer of masking varnish over new paint so that the new paint looks old!
- If selling, it's best to let the buyer know early on
the everything you know about the condition of a painting as it will almost
always be a point of negotiation. For example, paintings with damage, whether
repaired or not, may have drastically different value than well-preserved
- To find out the size of the image, for oil on canvas
paintings it's the outside dimensions of the stretcher board (not the frame).
State the height first, followed by the width. For watercolors, its the
size of the paper sheet containing the image.
- If the painting is very expensive, a savvy buyer will
have a conservator inspect the painting's condition and issue a condition
report before closing the purchase deal. The buyer wants to make sure he
or she is not overpaying, and may want to know the amount of money it will
take to get the painting into top condition. For less valuable paintings
the condition is still important but the use of experts is not as important.
- Perhaps the painting already has a condition report.
If so you have a leg up on the process. The reputation of the conservator
issuing the report is very important. Ask museum curators and conservators
for referrals before you hire an "expert." As a resource guide
for names of local conservators, see the American Institute for Conservation
of Historic and Artistic Works Directory, American Institute for Conservation
of Historic and Artistic Works, 1717 K Street N. W. Suite 301, Washington,
DC 20006, 202-452-9545. Note the Institute's articles on "Caring for
Your Paintings, " "Caring for Your Works on Paper" and "Guidelines
for Selecting a Conservator."
Return to Authentication
and Evaluation of Paintings
1. See our section on Conservation.
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
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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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