UV black light for art collectors â€“ Discovering Unseen Secrets!
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INSPECTING AND EVALUATING A VINTAGE OIL PAINTING (AND MORE!) WITH A UV BLACKLIGHT: REQUIRED Due Diligence For Art Collectors!GOOD CONDITION? RESTORATIONS? VALUE AND APPRAISAL?
3 GOOD TIPS FOR ART COLLECTORS
Painting by Jean Baptiste Camille Corot - This artist's artwork, in the past, was often faked and is, today, often misattributed.
Every art collector questions the condition (or authenticity!) before a purchase... or should! Appraisers also rely on evaluations and inspections by art conservation professionals and heres your first tip: When evaluating the condition of a painting for an important decision, use the services (consultation) of an art conservator that adheres to a professional code of
ethics. Ive worked with art dealers and restorers in the US, England, France and Italy. This type of situation, where a buyer is evaluating for sale and appraisal, is exactly the situation where a head fake is used to take advantage of the owner. So many details get blurred when professional codes of ethics are not in play. The professional code of ethics of professional art conservation does not allow for an art conservator to buy, sell or appraise (unless hes a certified). This landscape painting by Corot (above) is a perfect example of the right time to be asking ALL the questions. But what are the right questions? You cant know it all Second tip: Ask this question (The art appraiser in this sale was wondering) Did previous art restoration/conservation treatments affect the condition? In this case, the cracking had been treated and the cracks were down/flat but still visible. It seemed to me that the visibility of the cracks, while not unstable, would be an aesthetic detraction. Even though this is not a condition problem, would it affect the value or desirability? In this case, a small amount of varnish and treatment along the cracks would make them much less visible. Tip Number Three involves another condition question that should always be asked regarding previous retouching (if its sloppily done) or inpainting (if its accurately done and held to a minimum). These are details that are most easily seen with the use of a blacklight. More on this important diagnostic method that you can/should perform at the end of the article. In the case of this 19th century Barbizon painting, the green glow of the varnish is so bright that you cannot see any retouching under the varnish. You would only be able to see retouching over the varnish. So, beware. How much inpainting affects the value? Thats not an easy question to answer and is better answered by an appraiser. Rule of thumb is that very little inpainting along a border and in non-focus areas of the composition can be insignificant. Even small fingernail sized spots and small rips, if located in non-focal parts of the painting can impact the value very little. My opinion about this painting was that it is in excellent condition and the appraiser was prepared to give its highest retail replacement value for insurance
So, lets talk quickly about the use of a blacklight
An essential, REQUIRED due diligence step for art collectors!
UV (blacklight) inspection makes retouchings show up as purple blotches (This is a very over-simplified statement)
Of course, UV inspection has been a normal technique for seeing retouching for decades. Here is a brief technical review on the subject: An art collector, when inspecting art for purchase and condition, should always have a blacklight handy. But, be aware that all materials react to UV light in one way or another so you have to learn what you are looking at. When you learn the characteristics of what old paint vs. new paint does (plus other painting materials) and how varnishes react to UV light, you will have learned a diagnostic method that may save you $100,000, if not a lot more, depending on your
budget. Also be aware that all UV lights are NOT the same. However, the more intense or powerful the light (wattage), the better it does its job for you. The UV characteristics that art materials give off can be seen as different colors, different types of glowing or not glowing, bright colors or dark. But in every case, the viewing of paintings will always give you valuable information. This makes an ultraviolet lamp an especially useful instrument in checking the condition of all forms of artwork (see below). Here is more information (below) on ways to use ultraviolet visible fluorescence (UV blacklight). What follows are a few things to think about, however, this is in no way comprehensive nor are you able to learn the specifics of this diagnostic tool by reading this article, only. Get help. Using Ultraviolet Light to Identify Repairs and Alterations in Various Forms of Artwork Oil Paintings: View artwork under ultraviolet light to see if any previous retouching restoration has been done. Dark purple blotches usually indicate retouchings, repairs, floating signatures. Different kinds and ages of varnish glow differently with different colors. Different kinds of varnishes mean varying costs of cleaning! Porcelain, Ceramics & Glass: Repairs and cracks in fine porcelain and ceramic art objects fluoresce bright white. Lead glass, with even as little as 1% lead, fluoresces an ice-blue color while flint glass appears white. Uranium-colored glass fluoresces a very bright green or yellow. Clear glass repairs are easily seen with the naked eye but not so in colored glass. Beware of judging the age of glass by the color, because short-wave radiation turns some clear glass to amber or purple in a matter of weeks rather than many years if aged naturally by sunlight. These techniques are particularly important with Asian art.
Art on Paper: Bright areas in paper art show new patches of paper, residual gesso and bleached areas. Repairs have a variety of ways/colors of showing up. Mildew (foxing) appears yellowish and makes water stains easy to recognize. Textiles: New threads will fluoresce differently than old threads (dyes and colors). Bleached materials glow bright. Marble, Jade, Ivory & Clocks: To determine the repairs of marble, jade, ivory and clock faces, an ultraviolet lamp is useful. Fresh cut marble will appear as a strong purple, while old marble will be a mottled white. Fresh carved jade will appear as an intense color and old jade will be mottled in color. Newly carved ivory will appear purple, but old ivory will be a yellow tone. The ins and outs and variables of looking at collectibles - artwork are best done in an apprentice sort of way. Looking at a painting with someone who knows what they are doing will allow you to ask questions and understand better. Utilizing a blacklight is not an easy, idiot proof diagnostics method for the general public. Although its easy enough to buy a blacklight, you will make expensive mistakes if you dont get some instruction. So, my suggestion is that you find a type of mentor or teacher to look at a dozen or more paintings with and to whom you can ask questions later.
A darkened room is the optimum place to view an object/artwork with a blacklight, as you probably know. But sometimes thats not practical. This brings up the subject of quality or potency of UV blacklights.
Perhaps youd appreciate my evaluation of the quality of some of the UV lights available for purchase out there? Some battery powered blacklights are so weak that they are useless. I cant tell you how many times collectors (and dealers!) have said they have looked at something with a blacklight and thought that no retouchings were present. Then, when looking at the artwork with a better light, the retouchings showed up like bulbs on a Christmas tree! The hand held battery powered blacklights are a good example of this type of useless equipment. They cost about $10 -40.00 (fyi, at various suppliers)
The next type of light we should talk about is the flashlight type: you should know that there are several look alike kinds in varying strengths of UV light power. Most are useless. So, know what you are buying. Prices range $25.00 $125.00 (fyi, at various suppliers). However, new technology has helped the most powerful to show up a lot of good details even when used in public settings without turning off the lights. These most powerful handheld flashlight type blacklights are 10 times stronger that other flashlight types that look exactly the same. See below A New UV Flashlight.
The next UV light model you have seen used is a plastic housing model with an electrical cord. These are the most common ones used by dealers and auction houses. .. so beware. I have one of these and they are only OK quality. I use it to bang around while on the road. Only use this in a dark/blacked out room and let your eyes adjust before you start examining or you will not be getting good enough info to make a good decision. I only use mine if I have no other options. About $175.00 (fyi, at various suppliers)
The model I prefer to use, but dont carry it around with me on the road, is also a plug-in. It is many times more powerful than the above model and gives me LOTS of additional info. Its by far my favorite UV light. But it costs $395.00 (s/h included) instead of $175.00 (ask me about this one)
A New UV BlacklightI found a really great new inspection tool for art collectors that you are going to love. I dont know if the item is newly invented (I think it's recent technology put to a new use), but Im newly acquainted with it. Its a superpowerful UV flashlight that can be very useful for: 1. looking at restorations (inpainting, retouchings or worse, repainting on paintings and other items 2.seeing mold spots and differentiating between different types of mold 3.reading faint inscriptions (written on stretcher bars or labels for example) 4.seeing partial varnish removal, or incomplete cleanings, or fun