Discovery of fraud or positive identification of famous paintings is made possible through the collection of more than 2000 X-Ray shadowgraphs now housed in the Fogg Art Museum. This year the collection is being expanded with the addition of new shadowgraphs from Europe.
For several years Alan Burroughs '20, Lecturer on Fine Arts, has been taking or collecting these X-Rays, both in this country and abroad. At present he has over 150 works of Rembrandt, representative works of other great European artists, and about 350 famous American paintings.
X-Ray Discovers Significant Facts
With the X-Ray the expert on Fine Arts can study all the early stages in the development of a picture and thus uncover many significant facts that are frequently concealed by the top layers of paint.
With this information, it is frequently possible to determine frauds or to find out who actually painted a picture. "In the paintings," Burroughs said, "there are many slight variations in the way the paint is applied and the type of stroke the painter uses.
Characteristics of Painter
"The expert can recognize the characteristics of a certain painter, and thus we can, for instance, determine whether or not Rembrandt painted a picture in the middle seventeenth century, or whether it was painted by one of his pupils.
"This is the same system that the handwriting expert uses. He cannot tell from a single characteristic who wrote a letter, but through a culmination of observations, he seldom fails in his diagnosis."
Photographs American Paintings
Burroughs has photographed many of the leading American works about which there has been doubt as to who the painter was. In some cases, however, he has been unable to convince the experts that he was right, for the X-Ray is a fairly recent development, and there is tendency to ignore his findings.
"I have discovered several frauds while doing my research," he said, "but I can't tell you about them, for the people who own these works refuse to believe they are frauds and would be furious if anything was published about them."
At present, Burroughs is conducting an extensive study of the style of Rembrandt and his pupils, as shown by the X-Ray. An exchange of these shadowgraphs with institutions in Europe has already begun and will be continued during the coming year.