- Course information
- Art History (ARTH) 205: Science and the Detection of Art Forgeries
- Instructor Information
Reedy is a Professor in the Center for Historic Architecture and Design, and Director of the
Laboratory for Analysis of Cultural Materials. She also has a joint
appointment in the Department of Art History, where she teachers Art of Tibet. Prior to
joining the University of Delaware faculty, she was a conservation
scientist at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, where she
participated in numerous authenticity studies. She still does
occasional consulting identifying art forgeries for a variety of
museums and cultural institutions.
- Course Description
on a series of case studies, we will explore some basic scientific
principles useful in the investigation of known or alleged art
forgeries. Three major case studies will be examined in detail: the
Getty kouros, an ancient (?) Greek marble sculpture; the Shroud of
Turin; and the Han van Meegeren forgeries of Vermeer paintings.
We will discuss a variety of analytical techniques for the
investigation of the authenticity of works of art. We will also explore
the technological processes through which art objects are made, and the
basic materials science which impacts on the object's appearance,
structure, function, and deterioration. Although the primary focus of
the course is the science content and the scientific approach to
authenticity studies, we will include discussion of some related legal,
philosophical, ethical, historical, and art historical issues.
Science content will be learned as needed in forgery investigations.
Students will approach each case study as if they are charged with
undertaking an actual scientific investigation for an institutional
Board of Trustees, presenting all evidence, and arguing whether the
preponderance of evidence is for or against authenticity. Each case
study also has a tutorial, project, and/or virtual lab component that
delves more in-depth into some aspects of science related to that case.
The course will include short lectures and required readings,
supplemented by background material available on line. Much of the
course material is accessed through information placed in Sakai
through the Case Studies and their associated readings, in web-based materials accessed through links
provided in the section on "Main Course Content Materials," through the
Tutorials, and through the Assignments, and only partially through
lectures. Active and on-time participation in all components of the
course is expected.
- Course Objectives
major goal of this course is to provide a humanities-oriented forum for
the study of a variety of basic scientific principles and analytical
techniques. The course is intended to serve primarily students in the
arts and humanities who have had little or no science background or
affinity. Information and analytical techniques from chemistry,
materials science, and geology will be applied to understanding and
interpreting works of art. Scientific analysis provides information on
the composition, structure, and physical properties of objects; it can
help us identify how, when, and where objects were made, and how they
might have been used; it can also provide insights into aesthetic
intent. This information derived from scientific analysis often
supports or refutes charges of art forgery.
- Course Requirements
occur regularly throughout the semester. Please be prepared to put the appropriate
effort into your reading, research, writing, and exam preparation.
Students are expected to complete all required work on time. There will
be NO "extra credit" allowed to make up for missed assignments or poor
grades on assignments.
For each of the three case studies, a brief "position paper" is
required, summarizing the scientific evidence for and against
authenticity, and indicating whether the preponderance of evidence
supports or refutes authenticity. These summaries must incorporate
material from lectures and from required readings; each of the three
reports will contribute 15 points towards the final grade. Reports
should be turned in using the Sakai Assignment Tool.
There is also a shorter project that will require observation of an
actual work of art or architecture made of stone and which will result
in a written report, also turned in using the Sakai Assignment
Tool. The stone project will contribute 10 points towards the final
Some additional tutorials do not require a written report, but
information contained in them may appear on the exams. Two mid-term
exams and a final exam (all non-cumulative) will contribute 15 points each to the final