Did you know ...

... that CT can help bring art forgeries to light?

Most people associate computer tomographs (CT) with hospitals and radiology centers. In actual fact, they can be used in a host of ways that go beyond routine diagnoses. And they can even bring art forgeries to light. How did this idea come about?

An art collector purchased a statue of the Virgin Mary at an auction, where he was told that it dated back to the 13th century and had been owned by deceased industrialist Max Grundig from southern Germany. But when it emerged that there were multiple statues, he grew suspicious of its authenticity. The problem was this: determining its age meant using methods that required at least a small portion of the statue to be removed and destroyed. But the collector was not willing to compromise his statue if it really was more than 500 years old.


In a roundabout way, he learned about the computer tomography possibilities available at the ZEISS site in Stuttgart. The machine was perfect for examining the statue of the Virgin Mary, which was 40 centimeters tall. A look inside the statue revealed that this wooden figure was in fact produced more recently. The art dealer recognized this from the joints between its different parts. While the statue’s exact age remained elusive, the examination prompted the art collector to send off a chip for a C14 analysis. According to the CT, it belonged to the statue and had been lodged, almost invisibly, in a crack on the back. It proved that the statue of the Virgin Mary was in fact a fake and dated back to the early 20th century, making it a mere 100 years old.

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