www.MobiliantichiAutenticita.com    Last updating: 25/07/2013 

Gottfried Matthaes


Determining the authenticity of Furniture
and the wooden sculpture
A section of  the Museo d'Arte e Scienza


Scientific Methods
Spectroscopic Analysis of Wood:

Museo d'Arte e scienza -Via Sella 4 - Milano

IR Spectroscopy: absolute dating of different wooden parts of furniture.
Verifying use of old wood.
IR Spectrography: to identify wood essences.
ATR Spectroscopy: to analyse patinas and veneers.


Example: Spectroscopic dating analysis of a table (shown in the photo). Only the four legs are authentic, while the other parts are much younger.

These tests can be requested also by sending directly to our laboratory samples of wood dust taken from the furniture item following the instructions provided in our website: www.SpectroscopyForArt.com.




Other scientific tests and examinations made by our laboratory.

The Museum laboratory’s mission is to improve existing scientific methods and
elaborate new methods for the ascertainment of the authenticity of art objects.

Appraisals and valuations not available.
The laboratory’s instruments and know-how for the determining of authenticity are at the disposal of collectors, art experts, restorers, art galleries and museums. (The staff of the laboratory, who speaks the main European languages, is at your disposal for any explanations).

Examples of spectra of the spectroscopic analysis of other material than wood

These spectra supply a clear verdict about the nature of the material and allow to identify, for instance, types of glues, lacquers, ivory, horns, bones, old and new amber, plastic etc.

Evaluation of the use of natural or synthetic glues with Wood's light.

Monochromatic and ultraviolet light, as well as microscopic research show up the quality and the wear of gilding.

Identification of working techniques to verify the period of construction of furniture. Analysis of natural or artificial
damages and signs of wear
Microscopic and chemical analyses for the evaluation of mounts, locks, figures and other parts made of bronze and other metals.


Some practical tests for ascertaining authenticity for furniture's owners
Inspection of signs of wear and of the patina


Furniture feet, owing to contact with the floor, show the typical wear due to repeated washing: this authentic and convincing characteristic is known as a "wash patina".

A natural rub patina formed where hands rested on the surface of the wood. A magnifying glass permits the distinction of a natural patina from a mechanical one.


Optical analysis of inlaid work: handmade or industrial work?


Decisive for the identification of handmade work are the gaps in the wood and the irregular inlaid pieces typical of handmade work.

Inlaid work made by machine in a mould shows pattern edges that fit together perfectly.



Interactive test stations in the other rooms of the Museum

at the disposal of visitors for simple tests for ascertaining the authenticity of antiques


test station room 8:
sniff test on excavated pottery

test station room 9:
test for revealing use of plastic

identification of glues and other synthetic materials with Wood’s light

test station room 9: examination with a magnifying glass of signs of wear and decorations on china



optical examination of signs of wear to identify an authentic piece of silverware

shadow reveals industrial or handcrafted manufacture of glass

the microscope distinguishes authentic patinas and encrustations from faked ones

the dull sound of a porcelain item reveals hidden restoration work




NOTE: the cost of analyses is 100-150 € per test; some tests are conclusive in telling fake and authentic items apart, such as wood dating and tests on the encrustations on pottery and bronzes.     Price List 2011

For more information contact:
Dr. Peter Matthaes (laboratory's director), Chiara Civardi (
contact with customers). Tel. 0039-02-72022488  -  Fax. 0039-02-72023156 -  Email: info@museoartescienza.com



Acknowledged value
of the museum’s scientific laboratory and its methods
for determining authenticity


Attitudes towards and use of scientific methods are influenced by local laws and customs.

Basis of judgment: the situation in Italy (where the museum is located)

The prime institution for the fight against forgery and imitations is the Guardia di Finanza or Financial Police. The most recent catalogue on the determination of authenticity in art, published by the same in June 2007, contains an exclusive six-page presentation of the scientific laboratory of the Museo d’Arte e Scienza in which its methods for dating paintings, furniture, and objects in ivory and other materials are illustrated in detail and their validity, in effect, endorsed.

Judicial proceedings. The probatory value of the spectroscopic dating method is crucial to the outcome of civil and penal judgments involving the determination of the actual age of art works.

The art market: the percentage of unauthentic art works currently on the market is very high. As a consequence a section of the trade rejects scientific methods out of economic necessity. Furthermore, when dating tests give negative results, dealers often tend to maintain that it is not the art work that is at fault but the scientific test result, or that the method is unknown!!

Art lovers and investors. Copies and fakes will continue to be offered as originals as long as buyers of art refuse to follow the same line of conduct adopted when acquiring other “products”, that is to say insisting on a dependable guarantee of the object’s authenticity as the condition for its purchase. It is senseless to content oneself with the personal opinions of experts alone in this age of technology and science. The art market will become trustworthy only when the art lover becomes a connoisseur and, as envisaged by the law, demands a valid certificate.






Other requests may be sent, as always, directly to the Milan laboratory at the following address:

Museo d’Arte e Scienza
Via Q. Sella 4 – 20121 Milano
Tel. 0039 02 72022488
Fax 0039 02 72023156
e-mail: info@museoartescienza.com


For further info:  

www.Museoartescienza.com     www.Spectroscopyforart.com    
www.PaintingsAuthenticity.com    www.AfricanArtAuthenticity.com
and other sites




The value of expertise on art in the scientific age

The judgement of a renowned expert or a famous auction house has, at times, the magic power to push an article’s market value up by as much as a thousandfold. Thus a fine piece of furniture, a painting or an African mask may just as easily cost €1,000 or €1,000,000. This disconcerting difference in value estimates is becoming increasingly common in the international market. This would be conceivable if the appraisal were based on meaningful and verifiable data. Unfortunately this is not always the case.

€ 4.500  


€ 5.000.000
Auction of June 18, 2006

Over the centuries, well-to-do families and museums the world over have accumulated an unimaginable quantity of precious art treasures of incalculable commercial and art historical value. It is widely held, however, that over half of these works are not authentic. In the absence of scientific methods, such conclusions were based mainly on opinions.
A critical application of the new and accurate methods for ascertaining authenticity to this immense cultural heritage without the consent of its curators is neither thinkable nor desirable.

On the other hand, with the Internet and other media invading the homes of collectors and investors worldwide, it is inevitable that false assertions regarding technical methods for determining authenticity are revealed for what they are. By discrediting scientific analysis, the art market certainly also harms itself. As a result, buyers and investors are increasingly inclined to make their purchases from large and relatively reliable auction houses. There is a tendency in all sectors and small dealers are forced to close down. But it is precisely the art sector which could escape this trend.

Today gallery owners and art dealers are, in fact, in a position to complement their expert opinions with accurate scientific certificates, thus providing a more dependable guarantee of safer and fairer purchases than the large auction houses. Attitudes, as well as guarantees, need to be changed and scientific analysis should be seen as a useful and advantageous instrument and no longer as an obstacle or a threat.

There already exists a valid method, the IR Spectroscopy, since decades the most widely used analytic method in the chemical industry and in scientific research laboratories.


Get further and detailed information from our web site:




Short description of the natural and scientific foundations
of the spectroscopic dating of

The essentials in brief

Infra-red spectroscopy is not a new method or a new discovery. New is only its application for the ascertainment of age and authenticity in art. It has been used for decades the world over by all chemical and pharmaceutical companies with thousands of instruments and with the same programme and equipment as the ones used by the laboratory of the Museo d’Arte e Scienza. Its extreme reliability, accuracy and facility of use have made the IR Spectroscopy in all fields where it can be applied, the number one scientific method.

Spectroscopic dating is based on two well-known factors:

·         All the natural materials on earth, including those used for creating art objects, are compounds of specific molecules.

·         Some particular molecules undergo changes with the passage of time.

The IR spectrum of wood shows its molecules or groups of molecules as peaks and valleys (Figures 1, 2). Signs of age caused by evaporation, oxidation and new combinations cause the lowering of some absorption peaks and, to a lesser extent, a shift in the same (Figure 3).
This dating method allows therefore two possibilities for the evaluation of the spectrum, each one already offering good results singly.

1 – The graphic evaluation of the curve (Spectrography)
Right from the start of this research, the spectrographic measurement of the angle (α) formed between peaks of different heights permitted a dating accuracy of +/- 20% and these findings were communicated at the time, around 1995,  to a number of European museums and institutes.




Figure 2






2 – The evaluation of frequency shifts      (Spectroscopy)

The discovery of shifts in absorption frequencies in spectroscopic analysis has boosted accuracy over the years to an unexpected extent and was inexplicably high in the first few years.

(Figure 3) - The diagram to the left is only one example of the many characteristics of a spectrum.

At present we are attempting to trace this accuracy, as well as the independence from climatic conditions, to biological programmes inside the cellular nucleus of the tree. The incredible precision of these types of biological programmes in general are well-known and understandable for the growth of wood. An answer to the question why the ageing of wood must also be programmed can be supplied only by the evolution of cellular research.

The cell of trees, contrary to the cells of animals, is highly protected by a wall of cellulose, a hydrocarbon. Cellulose is extremely resistant to water and wood cells as well as datable wooden material are still existent in excavated Roman ships.

  Figure 4

Research in collaboration with a German
archaeological museum (1995).

Generation of reference tables to relate spectrum data to wood age:
The assignment of a spectrum to a specific wood species and to a specific age required the measurement of a great quantity of wooden objects of certain dating. This research, which called for many years of work on the part of qualified personnel was made possible only by the close and benevolent cooperation of international museums which began around 1993. The collaboration of some art museums terminated around 1995, since their curators feared there could be negative consequences for their collections. The Gottfried Matthaes Foundation, proprietor of the Museum, is, like the P. Getty Foundation, a non-profit organization at the service of art. Our cooperation with technical museums has continued.


The application of spectroscopic analysis for the dating of organic materials is patented
(It. Patent Nr. 01266808 - G. Matthaes, 1993)



Good news for friends of antique objects of art:
Ivory is datable!

Ivory object, Africa

Buddha temple, China

The term “ivory” comprises today not only elephant tusks, but also the tusks and horns of other animals and some types of bones. What distinguishes all types of ivory are their hardness and durability, characteristics due to their chemical composition.
For the most part ivory is made up of inorganic substances, the age of which is not measurable. There is also a presence of organic substances which undergo change with the passage of time following biological laws.

Infrared spectroscopic analysis identifies the molecules present in ivory enabling the inorganic substances to be clearly distinguished from the organic ones. For organic substances it is possible to apply focused analytical methods to selected and measurable molecules.

The spectroscopic curve permits the unmistakable recognition of the various kinds of ivory and therefore the elaboration of specific calculations for the dating of each type (Fig. 1 - 2).

Fig. 1

Fig. 2

Important! The molecules constituting ivory cells are not protected by walls like wood cells. Ivory samples for dating need to be appropriately stabilized immediately after they are taken.

The application of spectroscopic analysis for the dating of organic materials is patented
(It. Patent Nr. 01266808 - G. Matthaes, 1993)

Instructions on how to take ivory samples for dating

A)        The ivory object is sent to the laboratory of the Museum in Milan. This procedure allows to take the sample with the minimum and invisible damage.
         The ivory sample is taken by the owner of the object. For the dating we need a minimal fragment of ivory (10 mm3 volume - mm 3x3x1) which can be taken from the edge or a corner of the object with a very sharp knife or a small coping saw.

The obtained fragment must be put into a piece of paper, to be folded carefully and mailed directly to the Museum laboratory.



With this guide to detecting fakes, you will always have a trusted expert by your side, ready to provide you with clear and straightforward answers as to the authenticity and originality of the items that arouse your interest.

Title: THE ART COLLECTOR'S ILLUSTRATED HANDBOOK (three volumes - three languages)

The Author, Gottfried Matthaes, a physicist, was born in Germany of a family of longstanding artistic tradition and since 1960 has dedicated himself to the study of practical and scientific methods for the ascertainment of authenticity. In 1990 he founded the "Museo d'Arte e Scienza", the only one of its kind in the world, in the centre of Milan where most of the objects illustrated in the handbooks are exhibited, together with its attached laboratory. In 1993 he discovered and patented the application of IR spectroscopy for the age dating of wooden art objects.

VOLUME 1: Ivory, Paintings, Icons, Carpets and Rugs, Tapestry, Furniture, Glass, Ceramics, Scientific Methods
VOLUME 2: Paper, Books, Prints, Metals, Clocks, Walking Sticks, Pipes, Musical Instruments, Precious Stones, Amber, Pearls, Enamel Paint, Dolls, Toys, Fans
VOLUME 3: Minor Asian Arts, Excavated objects, Buddhist Art, African Art, Indonesian Art
Description: didactic, richly illustrated (about 2000 colour photos, especially of details and enlargements, with short explanatory texts)
Dimensions: cm 20 x 25
Style: easy to consult, to take along when visiting exhibitions, flea markets, when travelling
Price: Volume 1 (278 pages) 40.00 Euro
Volume 2 (128 pages) 30.00 Euro
Volume 3 (128 pages) 30.00 Euro
Shipping charges are not included and will be communicated depending on the country and the number of books.
Edition: glossy paper, reinforced cardboard covers
International Code:

Volume 1 - 1997, Code ISBN 978-88-900454-5-5
Volume 2 - 1999, Code ISBN
Volume 3 - 2000, Code ISBN 978-88-900454-7-9

How to buy it:
  • in all bookshops giving the above mentioned ISBN code number
  • directly at the Art and Science Museum
  • by e-mail




Examples of pages taken from volume 1
Volume 1
chapter "Furniture"
70 pages





Ample further descriptions for ascertaining
the authenticity
in art in our website:


for the individual fields of antiques:






panel paintings and canvases. Reproductions of graphic art work.

statues and
other wooden
art objects.

stone and other materials used for European art objects.

and Asian excavated




 scientific  metHodS
antique and
modern glassware.
African masks and art
statues in wood,
bronze and ivory.
Chinese and Buddhist
art in wood, bronze
and pottery.
for the ascertainment
in antiques.






18 rooms and over 2,000 items on display


MUSEO D'ARTE E SCIENZA- Museum of Art and Science - MILAN

Palazzo Bonacossa - Via Q. Sella, 4 -20121 Milano - Piazza Castello

Opening Hours: Mon.- Fri.: 10-18     Entrance: Euro 8 - red. Euro 4
Guided tours:
(min. 10 people) Euro 10
Info: Tel:+390272022488. Fax:+390272023156.  e-mail: info@museoartescienza.com



www.MuseoArteScienza.com - Sections of the "Museo d'Arte e Scienza": 6 rooms dedicated to the ascertainment of authenticity in art and antiques, 5 rooms about The "Treatise on Painting" of Leonardo Da Vinci and Leonardo's activities in Milan, 5 rooms dedicated to African Art and Buddhist Art, 2 Scientific Laboratories.

www.LeonardoDaVinciMilano.com - two permanent exhibitions: "Leonardo Citizen of Milan" and  "Appreciating Art through the Eyes of Leonardo" from his "Treatise on Painting"

www.AuthenticAfricanBronzesandCeramics.com -  dedicated to the authenticity of African artworks in bronze, stone and pottery. The scientific laboratory of the Museo d’Arte e Scienza has developed valid methods for telling authentic African objects from copies and fakes.

www.ArtAndScienceHandbook.com - The most complete and scientifically valid guide to ascertaining the authenticity of European and non-European antiques on an objective basis (540 pages and more than 2000 colour illustrations in 3 volumes and 3 languages)

www.Paintingsauthenticity.com - Information about the authenticity of modern paintings and antique paintings.

www.Excavatedartauthenticity.com - "A list of all the possible ways of determining, on the basis of objective factors,  the authenticity of excavated pottery, glass or bronze items from Southern Italy, the Mediterranean Basin, China and South America.".

www.AfricanArtAuthenticity.com - "Art and Life in Black Africa", The African Art didactic section of the Museum (5 rooms and over 350 objects).

www.SpectroscopyforArt.com - Scientific method for the dating of the wood and identification of the wood type used for art objects. Determination of their authenticity through analysis of colours, binders, pigments and other organic substances.

www.Matthaes.org  - The history of the G. Matthaes Foundation from the opening of the painting school in Dresden in 1906 up to the Museum "Arte e Scienza" in Milan.

www.CopiesAndFakesInArt.com - Ample further descriptions for ascertaining the authenticity in art for the individual fields of antiques.

www.IvoryAuthenticityAndAge.com - Ivory, bones and horns can now be spectroscopically dated and recognized with precision.

www.arteautentica.it - The Museum's scientific laboratory is in charge of the investigation of the authenticity in art and antiques and is available to individuals, collectors, art experts, restorers and museums.




Museo d’Arte e Scienza di Gottfried Matthaes S.R.L.
Sede legale e amministrativa: Via Q. Sella 4 – 20121 Milano
Partita IVA e Codice Fiscale 03191710106
C.C.I.A.A MILANO: 1343958 – Cap. sociale € 90.000,00