SLEUTHS are stalking the corridors of London’s National Gallery. Identifying and preserving paintings is one of the gallery’s essential tasks. Is a painting a fake, created to deceive? Was it altered years after it was made in order to conform to later fashions and make it easier to sell? Is it a genuine work later mistaken for that of a more highly valued contemporary? If a picture is a copy, was it made at the same time as the original, perhaps by the same hand? Multiples were not an Andy Warhol invention, although earlier on they took longer to produce.
The results of some of this sleuthing (clues uncovered and conclusions reached) have been brought together into a new exhibition at the National Gallery that is on until September 30th. The evidence is lucidly presented, in both words and images. Most of the works, whether by Sandro Botticelli, Dosso Dossi, Paolo Uccello, Rembrandt’s studio or Giorgione, are from its own collection.更多信息请访问：http://www.24en.com/
The rooms concentrate, in turn, on Deception and Deceit, Transformations and Modifications, Mistakes, Secrets and Conundrums, Being Botticelli and Redemption and Recovery. The result is a lively, educational and occasionally amusing show. A blown-up photograph of carefully painted crackle marks that cunningly mimic the look of centuries-old paint elicits a smile. Fakers can seem such attractive rascals if you aren’t their victim.
For centuries art detectives had to rely mainly on connoisseurship. For that a good eye was essential. Knowledge of the wider world was useful, too. Now there is sophisticated technology. A painting thought to be by Francesco Francia, a Renaissance artist, when it entered the gallery’s collection in 1924 was found to be a 19th-century fake after recent analysis by infra-red reflectography, which in effect sees through layers of paint. Not all technological revelations bring bad news: a 15th-century portrait of the then popular murdered Saint Peter Martyr (complete with cleaver in his head) turned out, when it was x-rayed, to be an earlier image of a friar by Giovanni Bellini. When the alterations were made the market for images of this saint was stronger than for Bellinis.
Connoisseurship sometimes overrides scientific evidence. Analysis of the green paint in a small Roman landscape painted by Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot and dated to 1826 showed it to be viridian. Artists were thought not to have had access to that pigment until a decade later. Did that make the Corot a fake? Not at all. Further research showed that artists worked with viridian years earlier than had been thought. The Corot remains a Corot.
Ashok Roy, the National Gallery’s director of scientific research and co-curator of this exhibition, believes that while technology can determine who did not paint a picture, it cannot prove who did. Connoisseurship remains a powerful tool. Nicholas Penny, now the National Gallery’s director, believed that two Italian paintings were by Paolo Veronese and Raphael. Research proved him right.
Among the mistakes included in the show is a Dürer portrait that later research determined was not by his hand; a Botticelli, too. The gallery’s most famous reattribution is “The Madonna of the Pinks”, now identified as being by Raphael. The museum bought the reattributed work for ￡22m in 2004.
Among the lessons to be learned at this exhibition is that not all attributions are necessarily for ever. Technology, however sophisticated, may be supplanted by better methods with the passing of time. This is not detective fiction; Sherlock Holmes can get it wrong. Attributions can often be hypotheses rather than unshakable facts. It is to the National Gallery’s credit that it has included some of its expensive misjudgments. Learning about the process is one of the pleasures of this show.