As Light Meets Matter
Art Under Scrutiny
Department of Mathematics and Science
University at Buffalo
Department of Chemistry
Department of Food Science
In this dilemma case, the central character, a museum curator, must decide whether or not to show a painting as a hitherto “undiscovered” Cezanne. The stylistic analysis suggests it is for real, but data obtained using different spectroscopic techniques are inconclusive. Students study the data and then make a decision as to whether they believe the painting is authentic or a fake. Written for a general chemistry course for non-majors, the case could be used in a variety of other courses including general chemistry for science majors, introduction to spectroscopy, instrumental analysis, and conservation science. It could also be adapted for use in other non-majors science courses with the focus of discussion on how scientific data can be used to authenticate or de-authenticate a work of art.
- Learn the basic concepts of electromagnetic radiation and its interaction with matter.
- Learn the basics of spectroscopy and the types of information given by IR, X-ray, and UV-visible spectra.
- Discuss the different types of data and their relevance and limitations.
- Suggest further experiments that might be needed to resolve the dilemma.
- Examine whether science can prove an artwork to be original and the limitations of the scientific method.
KeywordsElectromagnetic radiation; spectroscopy; spectra; infrared; IR; X-ray; ultra-violet; UV-visible; UV-vis; art analysis; art forgery; Cezanne
Topical AreasScientific method
Educational LevelUndergraduate lower division
Type / MethodsAnalysis (Issues), Dilemma/Decision, Discussion
Subject HeadingsChemistry (General) | Analytical Chemistry |