In 1992, Martin Lang bought what he thought was an original nude watercolour said to be painted from 1909-10 by Russian-born, modernist artist Marc Chagall. Authenticity tests carried out by experts for BBC One’s Fake or Fortune programme (broadcast on 2nd February 2014) proved that the painting was in fact a fake. They used Thermo Scientific GRAMS spectroscopy software to identify the pigment used in the painting, which turned out to be Phthalocyanine Blue. This type of colourant was only invented after the 1930s. That meant the watercolour couldn’t possibly have been painted around 1909. Check out the related story on the BBC Entertainment & Arts website.
This isn’t the first instance we’ve heard where GRAMS spectroscopy software has proven useful in the world of art conservation. Gus Shurvell, a Professor in the Art Conservation Program at Queen’s University, Ontario, also uses GRAMS for spectroscopic and chemical analysis of art and archeological artefacts. Its particularly useful for comparing spectra recorded in the laboratory with spectra contained in databases of reference spectra. You can read the full case study here.