Physics, chemistry and false pictures | Science

Radioactivity is a physical phenomenon where chemistry is present. In this way, chemistry is revealed to us, once again, as the physics of complex matter.

In addition, it was Ernest Rutherford, British chemist born in New Zealand, who demonstrated at the beginning of the last century that the radioactivity of a substance is directly proportional to the number of atoms present in that substance. Such property of the atom will be key to detect pictorial falsifications. One of the most famous cases, where chemistry and art were conjugated to demonstrate fraud, was the case of the painting attributed to the Dutch painter Vermeer (1632-1675) and which is titled Women caught in adultery. His counterfeiter was an unknown painter, a type with talent for copy that falsified pictures for revenge. He was resentful of the art market, of which he felt a marginal production unit. His name was Van Meegeren and he would be arrested on May 29, 1945, at the end of World War II, not for a counterfeiter but for having sold the aforementioned painting to Marshal Goering.

With this, Van Meegeren would be condemned to death for collaborating with the Nazis in European artistic plunder. But shortly after his arrest, he would confess from his cell that the only crime for which he could be charged was for selling a false picture to Marshal Goering. He betrayed himself, confessing that he had been the author of the Veermer. Already put, Van Meegeren also declared that not only he falsified that picture but some more. At first no one believed the painter. Everyone thought he said this to get rid of the death sentence. The countdown had begun and he needed to save himself. Releasing a hoax was a way to save the hide, the neck of the gallows.

To show that he was right, that it was not cheating, Van Meegeren asked for painting material and a canvas. From his cell he made Vermeer's painting Jesus among the doctors. The experts, to eye, realized that Van Meegeren was not lying, that he was right. His copyist technique left no trace of Vermeer without reflecting. With such tricks, the death penalty was commuted and Van Meegeren would be condemned for falsification. It would fall a year. He did not serve his sentence, because shortly after, a heart attack would end his life.

Van Meegeren worked in detail, not only with the brush and strokes, but with the elements used. For example, the fabrics used by Van Meegeren were from the so-called Dutch Golden Age, a period of great flourishing in terms of politics, economy and culture, where Vermeer stood out. What Van Meegeren did was to use paintings from that era but with no exchange value in the art market and which he scraped until he got the texture necessary to put himself into the work of falsification. Knowing the chemical materials, Van Meegeren used the synthetic resin of phenol-formaldehyde and mixed it with the oil paint, which hardened the painting and aged its appearance as if it were an artistic work through which the centuries had passed.

It was in 1967 when a team of scientists from Carnegie Mellon University, helped by the application of nuclear technology, demonstrated that Meeger was not lying. The Vermeers were fake

With everything and that, after Van Meegeren died there were experts in works of art who denied the falsification. The matter was not for less, had been disbursed a lot of money in certificates of authenticity. But it was in 1967 when a team of scientists from Carnegie Mellon University, aided by the application of nuclear technology, proved that Meeger was not lying. The Vermeers were false.

Science, applied to unravel fraud, showed that atoms, with the passage of time, disintegrate to become new atoms of new elements. In this way, with the application of radioactivity, the date on which a pictorial work was created can be approximated. The atoms are unstable even in the concentrated reality that shows us a pictorial work.

The stone ax it's a section where Montero Glez, with a desire for prose, exercises its particular siege on scientific reality to show that science and art are complementary forms of knowledge.


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