The definition of the authenticity of artworks has undergone a slow process of development: with time, connoisseurship — the traditional practice of attributing detailed artistic identities to works of art on the basis of a comparative analysis of stylistic and formal components — has lost its position of technical leadership. In fact, currently, trust in the expert eye is increasingly subjected to the “objective” outcomes ensured by new and more rigorous techniques of scientific analysis of materials. However, this approach risks being somewhat reductive and incomplete.
With this in mind, the authors of the paper Violon. Céret by Pablo Picasso: The case of a lost painting. A methodological approach by Eleonora Maria Stella et al., published on Journal of Cultural Heritage, Vol. 35, 2019, Pages 199-208, doi.org/10.1016/j.culher.2018.05.012, proposed a multidisciplinary methodological approach for the study of a painting from Pablo Picasso's cubist period in order to verify its authenticity. The painting was produced by the artist in 1912 during his second stay in Céret (southern France), but all traces of this work were lost until it was discovered in Italy in 2013. The events related to its collection and the causes that led to the painting's somewhat troubled history from a preservation point of view are unknown, and for this reason its presence in the catalog raisonné by Christian Zervos (edition of 1942) with the title Violon. Céret assumes great importance. The in-situ non-invasive diagnostic measurements integrated with few microsamples analysed in the laboratory with a range of techniques allowed to identify the palette and the materials used for the painting of Violon. Céret. In addition, it was also possible to distinguish between original and non-original materials with special attention to those that were used in the material employed for joining the original canvas to a new one. The palette is limited to few colors: white, brown (various hues) and black, and is completely typical of the period.
The results of the investigations allowed to demonstrate the compatibility of the constituent materials of the painting with its period of creation–in the year 1912 - confirming the expert’s opinions based on stylistic data and study of documentary sources. The objective knowledge of its material components and the recognition of a stylistic language, made it possible to define a specific artistic personality and formulate a value judgment, even if the lack of conservation and provenance history may affect opinions regarding its attribution and value.
However, the multidisciplinary approach seems to be extremely useful for the acknowledgement of the authenticity of a work of art.