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Home :: Archive :: 2005 :: May ::
Fake Flower
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.0862  Tuesday, 3 May 2005

[1]     From:   Kathy Dent <
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        Date:   Monday, 02 May 2005 12:34:30 +0100
        Subj:   RE: SHK 16.0847 Fake Flower

[2]     From:   Douglas Galbi <
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        Date:   Monday, 2 May 2005 13:28:22 -0400
        Subj:   fake Flower / open science


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Kathy Dent <
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Date:           Monday, 02 May 2005 12:34:30 +0100
Subject: 16.0847 Fake Flower
Comment:        RE: SHK 16.0847 Fake Flower

Peter Bridgman wrote:

"I saw the programme.  They x-rayed the painting and found an Italian
madonna and child underneath.  This suggested that it could be from the
right period.  They then gave the portrait to an expert on pigments and
she found chrome-yellow in the picture, a pigment that wasn't
available in the 17th century.  I think she concluded it was an early
19th century forgery."

Thanks, Peter.  In four lines you have fully described everything that
this programme contained.  I rest my case.

Kathy Dent

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Douglas Galbi <
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Date:           Monday, 2 May 2005 13:28:22 -0400
Subject:        fake Flower / open science

Peter Bridgeman writes:

"I saw the programme.  They x-rayed the painting and found an Italian
madonna and child underneath.  This suggested that it could be from the
right period.  They then gave the portrait to an expert on pigments and
she found chrome-yellow in the picture, a pigment that wasn't available
in the 17th century.  I think she concluded it was an early 19th century
forgery."

Actually, a more detailed description of the analysis has been available
at http://www.npg.org.uk/live/prelsearching.asp  Bridgeman's description
of what he saw on the tele neither advances the discussion nor has much
relation to the point that Kathy Dent and I are making.

The NPG press release (see above link) states: "it can be categorically
stated that Flower portrait of Shakespeare is a nineteenth century
painting."

Some questions:

1. Who specifically are the experts supporting this claim?  Using a
passive voice obscures agency and accountability.  That's particularly
inappropriate for a innovative, categorical claim.

2. How has this claim been reviewed?  Making findings public on the
"Culture Show" is rather different than publishing them in a
traditional, peer-reviewed journal.

3. Why hasn't details of this important work been made available on the
Internet? What were paint sampling methods, physical tests, and results?
  What were the physical properties of the "chrome-yellow" that formed
the basis of the conclusion that this pigment wasn't available in the
seventeenth century? There is considerable world-wide expertise in
physical sciences.  One would hope that public institutions would try to
contribute to global knowledge, and try to make best use of knowledge
and expertise available.  Moreover, it seems to me that one should be
cautious in claiming categorical certainty about the non-existence of a
pigment.  If persons making this claim did not make efforts to encourage
widespread, independent review, I would not consider the claim credible.

Douglas Galbi

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