Works of art often bear the fingerprints of the artist who created them. Such crucial evidence usually goes unnoticed even by connoisseurs, art experts and conservators. If present, such evidence could be valuable in clarifying questions about authorship and dating.
The use of the term forensic usually contains elements likecrime, legal procedure or academic thetoric. Our objective,however, is not to see who committed a crime but rather who committed the work of art in question and to put forward evidence sound enough to stand up to professional scrutiny. The value of such evidence is extremely high as the probability for the existence of two identical finger impressions from different individuals is nil and no such occurrence has ever been noticed in any part of the world at any time. The science of fingerprint identification is based on that accepted fact.
The unique character of ridges on our hands has been recognised for thousands of years. The study of ancient pottery for example reveals the utilisation of fingerprint impressions in the clay as a maker's mark. In prehistoric times, we find examples of hand prints in cave painting. Only as recently as 1858 did Sir William Herschel establish its use for identification. In 1888, Sir Francis Galton undertook to refine and formulate Herschel's observations. Identification by fingerprint was first adopted in England in 1905 and received general acceptance worldwide in 1908
The combination of a number of characteristics in a given fnger impression is specific to a particular print. The placing of implicit reliance on fingerprint evidence by our courts of law has always been on the assumption (now accepted as a fact) that no two fingers can have identical ridge characteristics. Galton's mathematical conclusions predicted the possible existence of some 64 billion different fingerprint patterns.
Artists in the area of the visual arts use their hands for creation. Their tools, such as brushes often isolate them from the surface they are working on. Inaccurate deposits of paint are often corrected by modeling with the fingertip. Some artists used the fingertip to soften the marks left by the brush by gently tapping or stroking the still wet surface.In some instances, the fingertip was used for literally "stamping" the fine network of ridges onto the painting.
The eventual authentication of a painting by J. M. W. Turner entitled Landscape E Rainbow in 1993 is a good illustration of the process. The painting was discovered in the early 1980's. Fingerprint evidence was discovered on the painting during restoration, appropriately documented and re-examined by a veteran expert. A match was found between the fingerprint on Landsape witb Rainbow and one photographed on another painting by the same artist that hangs in the Tate Gallery, London. The evidence was duly disregarded by the puzzled scholars and art experts. But, the fingerprint on Landscape with Rainbow and a fingerprint from Turner's Cbicbester Canal clearly matched.In both instances the fingertip was used to model still wet paint. Turner's Chicbester Canal picture has an unquestionable provenance all the way back to the artist. In addition, it is well known that Turner always worked alone and had no assistants. This reduces the chances of accidental contribution substantially. Some of the various experts who formerly rejected the attribution of the painting to Turner recanted under heavy media coverage. The painting was finally sold at auction at Phillips in London in 1995
In 1998, three envelopes containing old correspondence had been purchased in an antique shop. One of the envelopes postmarked April 2, 1915 was found to contain a drawing folded in half. T'he drawing depicts a woman's head. It is executed in red chalk with an inscription written in reverse with brown ink. The design is faded and worn.Some spots suggest foxing and subsequent discolouration. T'he paper is yellowed and contaminated.
The newly discovered design bears great similarity to that of the Head of St Anne by Leonardo da Vinci, in the Windsor Collection since 1629. The medium is different, red chalk being used instead of black. The scale of the two images is different so offsetting (copying by contact transference) is not a satisfactory explanation for the new drawing Differences also exist in the design itself, principally in the folds of the veil, in thepresence of an additional strand of braid and in the angle of the head. The figure is softer, which may be due to fading, wear and contamination. In addition, the use of a damp brush is indicated in microscopic examination and is likely responsible in part for the softness of the image. When the paper was first examined, several fingerprints have been noticed on the verso. One of them was found clear and containing many ridges suitable for comparison, however, no analysis was done at the time due to the lack of reference material. Many of Lconardo's works are not easily accessible and fingerprint data either does not exist or is not published.
IBy chance, on March 30, 1999, several clear and useable fingerprints were found on an unusually good detail photo in a publication on Leonardo. The photograph of Leonardo's St Jerome, in the Vatican Museum, revealed no less than 16 partial fingertip marks. The importance of this is that the fingerprints are left in the still wet paint and without doubt the use of the fingertip served to model paint. Since the authorship of the painting of St Jerome is unquestioned by scholarship and has always been ascribed to Iconardo, the conclusion that these fingerprints are his would be hard to argue against.
The fingerprints on the St Jerome illustration were scanned and enlarged so comparisons could be made with the fingerprint on the newly discovered drawing. One of them proved to match. The result of the analyses was presented on March 31, 1999 to fingerprint examiner Staff Sergeant André Turcotte for an independent assessment.He agreed with the findings and confirmed the conclusion. The matching fingerprint is powerful circumstantial evidence. It dates the drawing to Leonardo's lifetime and it proves that Leonardo had to have physically handled the paper.
Choose ONE phrase from the list of phrases A-K below to complete each of the sentences 1-7 below. Write the appropriate letters in boxes 1-7 on vour answer sheet.
1 The fingerprint in ancient pottery.....................................................
2 The science of fingerprint identification...........................................
3 The authentication of a painting without signature…....................................
.4 Landscape with Rainbow..........................................
5 Visual artists................................
6 The drawing depicting a woman's head....................................
7 Leonardo's fingerprint data..............................
A used fingers to remove unwanted paint left by the brush.
B revealed the utilisation of clay.
C was based on Galton's mathematical assumption.
D was left to identify the person who made it.
E was in poor condition."
F was sold in high price after its author had been identified.
G was widely accepted because of a reliable system available.
H was preserved in the Windsor Collection.
I could be done by comparing with fingerprints left from other sources.
J could be used to find out who committed a crime.
K was obtained from the painting of St Jerome.