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Unlocking the Art World: Insights from an Art Authenticator

Discover the fascinating world of authentication, restoration and art markets. Uncover the importance of a certificate of authenticity and the expertise of art authenticators. Explore the legacy of renowned artists, the significance of the catalogue raisonné and the vital role of art conservation in preserving masterpieces.

What is an Art Authenticator? Decoding the Secrets of Evaluating and Certifying Art

Whether you are the curator of a major museum or an emerging art collector, authenticity is of the utmost importance when growing your collection with new acquisitions. While beauty is in the eye of the beholder, spotting a fake can taint any viewing experience. This is why all collectors, established and new, institutional and individual, rely on the important work of art authenticators to ensure their acquisitions are the real deal.
An art authenticator is an expert or professional who examines and evaluates works of art to determine whether or not they are genuinely created by a particular artist. The process of authenticating art involves a careful and comprehensive analysis of various factors, including the artwork's provenance, supporting documentation like certificate of authenticity or a catalogue raisonné, the style and technique of the work, condition reports, historical context and sometimes even scientific and forensic studies of the materials used.
Portrait Of A Gentleman By Frans Hals | M.S. Rau
Portrait Of A Gentleman By Frans Hals | M.S. Rau

This incredible oil painting by the Old Master Frans Hals was looted during the Nazi invasion of the Netherlands and lost for over sixty years. With the careful work of art authenticators and restoration experts, this this amazing work was rediscovered and its attribution to the Dutch Master Hals was reaffirmed.
Art authenticators play a crucial role in the art world, preventing fraud and misattribution while also lending a hand in discovering previously unknown works by some of the world’s most famous artists. They work with collectors, galleries, museums, auction houses, and other art institutions to ensure that the art they handle is legitimate.

Certificate of Authenticity: A Trusted Document for Verifying the Legitimacy of Art

L'Étang de Montélimar by H. Claude Pissarro | M.S. Rau
L'Étang de Montélimar by H. Claude Pissarro | M.S. Rau

One of the most powerful tools for verifying art is a certificate of authenticity. Once a trusted art authenticator determines that a work of art is legitimate, they will create a typed or handwritten certificate that states that the work is authentic. These certificates are signed by the authenticator and often bear a stamp of approval or even a fingerprint, connoting the level of seriousness for which the practice of authentication is taken.
Many art authenticators can base their continued assertion of a piece’s validity on the merit of the work’s accompanying certificate of authenticity. Credible certificates of authenticity are issued from several types of sources. These certificates can come from organizations like the Art Dealers Association of America and the American Society of Appraisers, independent art authenticators, the estates of late artists and the studios of living artists.
Authenticating the Greats

Certain famous artists have specific arbiters of authenticity. For Claude Monet, for example, the Wildenstein Institute is the foremost authority when it comes to verifying the authenticity of Monet works. Daniel Wildenstein published the artist's five volume catalogue raisonné and his namesake organization continues to wield the power of authenticating Monet's works today. A certificate of authenticity from the Wildenstein Institute is the gold standard for a Monet work of art.
In a similar vein, the works of Henri Matisse also have a preferred source of a certificate of authenticity. Wanda de Guebriant was the foremost Matisse expert who succeeded Matisse's daughter as the only authorized authenticator of Matisse’s work from 1982 until her death in 2019, and today these certifications are prized documents.
A certificate of authenticity from a trusted source can greatly impact the value of a work over time. Contemporary artists are keenly aware of this, and many include these documents with their works. One such artist who knows very well about how the a certificate of authenticity can impact value is H. Claude Pisarro. Hailing from a long lineage of artists, including Impressionist Camille Pissarro, H. Claude’s studio is careful to produce these documents, signed by the artist, for his masterful pastels and watercolors.

Art Archives: Unraveling the Mysteries Behind the Origins of Artworks

Psyché By Jules-Joseph Lefebvre | M.S. Rau
Psyché By Jules-Joseph Lefebvre | M.S. Rau 

This work has a rich Salon history. Finding primary documents and archival materials is an important step in the vetting process when collecting 19th-century fine art.


Sometimes works of art are not accompanied by a certificate of authenticity. Even when they are, it is important to continue to research these works and learn more about them. Art historical research helps to put works in context and discover primary sources around their creation. Works of art are recorded through a myriad of sources including patronage contracts, letters and diary entries, line items in an artist’s ledger, submissions to the Salon, exhibition reviews and more.


In addition to traditional libraries and archives, researchers now have access to vast digital archives, advanced imaging techniques and sophisticated analytical tools, enabling them to uncover previously hidden insights. Through rigorous visual analysis, art historians can uncover the underlying meanings, cultural significance and social contexts in works of art.


By piecing together a complex tapestry of supporting primary sources and visual analysis, art historical research not only provides insights into the past but also fosters a deeper appreciation and understanding of these famous artworks in the present.

Three Cows Grazing By Claude Monet | M.S. Rau.
Three Cows Grazing By Claude Monet | M.S. Rau

This rare pastel work was included in Claude Monet’s extensive multi-volume catalogue raisonné, affirming its attribution to the most widely recognized Impressionist painter.


Exploring the Catalogue Raisonné and Its Significance

A catalogue raisonné is a comprehensive inventory of all known works by a particular artist. It serves as a definitive reference and authoritative source for art historians, collectors and institutions by providing detailed information about each artwork, including its title, dimensions, medium, provenance, exhibition history and current location. Through meticulous research and documentation, a catalogue raisonné aims to establish an artist's oeuvre's authenticity, chronology, and development over time.
These volumes often take multiple decades to compile. Just as they showcase the life’s work of an artist, building an artist’s catalogue rasisonné is the life’s work of the art historian who takes on the mammoth task. Costly to produce in more ways than one, they are often printed in limited editions and volumes, making them highly rare and quite expensive. Despite the barrier to entry, when it comes to authenticating artwork, the catalogue raisonné is an invaluable resource and often the starting point for investigating a specific work.
Top: The original edition of “Zervos,” which lists more than 16,000 artworks and fetches as much as $200,000 at auction. It was last updated in 1978. Bottom: The new edition, a near-facsimile of the original.
Top: The original edition of “Zervos,” which lists more than 16,000 artworks and fetches as much as $200,000 at auction. It was last updated in 1978. Bottom: The new edition, a near-facsimile of the original.
Much like works of art themselves, some of the first editions of these catalogue raisonnés also fetch stunning values at auctions. The original edition of Pablo Picasso’s catalogue raisonné by Christian Zervos, for example, goes for as much as $200,000 at auction.
Catalogue raisonnés are incredibly important in the art world. They preserve the oeuvre of artists, represent the important scholarship of art historians and aid in distinguishing genuine works from forgeries. These volumes play a critical role in shaping the market value and appreciation of an artist's body of work.

Preserving Legacies: The Vital Role of Art Conservation in Museums and Galleries

Learning To Ride A Bike By George Hughes |M.S. Rau
Learning To Ride A Bike By George Hughes | M.S. Rau

Art conservation plays a vital role in museums and galleries by preserving and protecting valuable cultural heritage for future generations. Through careful examination and restoration, conservators ensure that artworks maintain their original aesthetic and historical integrity. Their expertise helps prevent deterioration caused by environmental factors and aging, allowing the public to continue enjoying these masterpieces.
Conservation is not only a factor for pieces of fine art, but also in the world of objet d’art and antiques. When it comes to preserving the quality of luxury antiques, it is important that highly trained conservators ensure that the quality of these items does not degrade while still maintaining the original integrity of the pieces. Careful and accurate conservation is an important factor to consider when collecting antiques.
Conservation efforts also contribute to scholarly research, as they unveil hidden details and insights into an artist's technique and materials. By engaging in conservation practices, museums and galleries demonstrate their commitment to the responsible stewardship of art, fostering a deeper appreciation for our shared cultural heritage among visitors and the broader community. Ultimately, art conservation serves as a bridge between the past and the present, ensuring that the beauty and significance of artistic creations endures for centuries to come.

From Leonardo da Vinci to Keith Haring: The Lasting Importance of Art Authenticators in the Changing Art World

Today, art authenticators continue to hold lasting importance as guardians of artistic integrity. As forgeries and counterfeit artworks become more sophisticated, their expertise remains crucial in distinguishing genuine pieces from imitations.

By providing reliable authentication, they safeguard the market's credibility and protect collectors and investors from financial losses. Furthermore, art authenticators play a vital role in preserving an artist's legacy by ensuring that their body of work remains accurately documented and recognized throughout history.

Keith Haring at his Pop Shop in SoHo, 1986 Tseng Kwong Chi / Muna Tseng Dance Projects Inc./The Keith Haring Foundation


Keith Haring at his Pop Shop in SoHo, 1986
Tseng Kwong Chi / Muna Tseng Dance Projects Inc./The Keith Haring Foundation



Keith Haring: A Collector’s Challenge

One of the most prominent American artists and social activists in the 1980s, Keith Haring is known for his iconic and colorful graffiti-inspired artworks. Incredibly prolific and popular during his short life, today, Haring is one of the most forged artists of our time.


His paintings and drawings are among the easiest to fake and hardest to authenticate. Some ways authenticators can differentiate a real Haring from a fake is closely looking at the way the work is drafted – Haring always worked with continuous, unbroken lines. Identifying specific details is the key to authenticating works of art and antiques when other sources are inconclusive.


Da Vinci: A Contested Controversy

Recently, art authenticators came into the spotlight in a major way: a rediscovered masterpiece by Leonardo Da Vinci. The rediscovery of Da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi is a remarkable story in the art world. The painting was long believed to be lost until it resurfaced in 2005, when it was purchased at an auction house in the United States for just a few hundred dollars.


Initially, it was thought to be a copy of an original artwork. However, after extensive research and examination by art experts, it was eventually authenticated as an original work by Leonardo da Vinci.


In 2017, Salvator Mundi was sold at auction for a record-breaking $450.3 million, making it the most expensive artwork ever sold. The rediscovery of this masterpiece added a new chapter to the fascinating history of art authentication and conservation.

Leonardo's Salvator Mundi sold at Christie's in 2017 for $450 million
Leonardo's Salvator Mundi sold at Christie's in 2017 for $450 million

However, this work remains highly contested in the world of authenticators. Recently, the Salvator Mundi was downgraded from a fully authenticated Leonardo by curators at the Prado museum in Spain. The downgrading comes in the catalogue of the Prado exhibition Leonardo and the Copy of the Mona Lisa where it is listed under “attributed works, workshop or authorised and supervised by Leonardo.”


Although individual specialists have questioned the status of the Salvator Mundi, the Prado decision represents the most critical response from a leading museum since the Christie’s sale. Of the debate, Prado curator Ana Gonzáles Mozo writes “some specialists consider that there was a now lost prototype [of Leonardo’s Salvator Mundi] while others think that the much debated Cook version is the original.”


This thrilling saga surrounding the lost Da Vinci emphasizes the importance of art authenticators and the importance of continuing to investigate works of art. While art authenticators are highly skilled professionals, the art market can still be susceptible to forgeries and disputed attributions. Thus, museums, galleries, auction houses and individual buyers and sellers should continue to exercise due diligence and consult reputable experts to ensure the authenticity and value of the artwork.


Interested in more original fine art and antiques? From makers like Chippendale to Lalique, you can be sure with our 110% guarantee that you’re getting the real deal.


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