Scientists discover “chemical fingerprint” of Picasso

picasso fingerprint

University of Barcelona along with Museu Picasso experts analyze “Man With a Basque Hat” (1896). (Photo courtesy of ArtNet, Museu Picasso/Universitat de Barcelona)

Studies of early works by Pablo Picasso have provided new insight into the renowned artist and how he painted between 1895 and 1900.

According to ArtNet News, Spanish chemical engineer Dr. José Francisco García Martínez of the University of Barcelona collaborated with the Museu Picasso to analyze art from Picasso’s early period prior to Cubism.

García Martínez used spectronomy – non-invasive studies based on light – for his analysis. He compares it to how the chemical composition of planets in outer space can be determined based on the light they reflect.

The studies were able to identify everything from a white zinc-based pigment named “Chinese white” to the composition of Picasso’s dark primers. By doing so, Picasso’s early works can now be classified in chronological order based on objective data.

The analysis even shows evidence of different images or drafts on a canvas. X-rays of Picasso’s “Self Portrait With a Wig” (1897) show the artist originally painted the subject with a large hat, while his “Man With a Basque Hat” (1895) was painted on a used canvas that depicted pigeons.

The paintings that were examined included  “Retrat de Vell” (Portrait of an old man), “Man with a Benet,” “Self-portrait with Wig,” “Portrait of Carles Casagemas,” “Retrat d’un desconegut (Portrait of a stranger)” and “Head of a Man in El Greco Style.”

García Martínez’s findings not only offer insight into Picasso’s artistic process, but adds to the field of verifying artwork. The chemical fingerprint of an artist, like real fingerprints, is unique, meaning it may become easier to determine whether a work of art is authentic or a forgery.

“This chemical fingerprint is unique to the painter and allows us to characterize him. It is not only about the materials used but also about traces, which for example give us clues about where Picasso bought his pigments. This is a solid scientific basis for research,” García Martínez explained.

García Martínez concludes that the findings are significant, but there is still plenty to discover and questions to answer.

“That’s the way it is in science. When you answer a question, the answer raises even more questions,” he said.

Science and technology continue to improve studies in the art world. For example, modern tools and techniques helped end a decades-long dispute that a Rembrandt painting is authentic and not painted by one of Rembrandt’s pupils.

For more about science and art joining forces, read what astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson and artists like Peter Max have to say about the subject.

Leave a comment

Prove you\'re human. *

Latest News

  • Collect Unique Romero Britto Artwork During Our Limited-Time Sale

    Chances are you’ve seen Romero Britto’s instantly recognizable style during your travels, but odds are you’ve never seen this many unique Britto paintings in one place.Park West Gallery just ...
    Read More
  • Enjoy Art Auctions Aboard the World’s Largest Cruise Ship: Symphony of the Seas

    If you’re a fan of Royal Caribbean art auctions, something big is on the horizon.This April marks the maiden voyage of Royal Caribbean International’s newest ship, Symphony of the ...
    Read More
  • Daniel Wall Follows His Heart in His New Spring Collection

    Spring is that special time when flowers bloom and love is in the air, and artist Daniel Wall is one of the rare artists who can uniquely capture the ...
    Read More
  • Dominic Pangborn to Showcase Art at 2018 Winter Paralympics

    Not long after enjoying the Olympics in his native country of South Korea, artist Dominic Pangborn received an unexpected phone call from 2018 Paralympics officials.“They had talked about doing ...
    Read More
  • Auctioneer Spotlight: Lucy Orbell

    Many Park West collectors develop lasting friendships with our art teams, underscoring our 49-year reputation of connecting people from all walks of life with artwork they love.Here’s a chance to ...
    Read More
  • Music Legend Gary Puckett Transforms Park West VIP Events Into Concerts to Remember

    When you attend a Park West auction, you never know who you’re going to meet. You might meet fellow art lovers, your favorite artist, or—if you’re lucky—you might meet a ...
    Read More
  • The Surrealistic Art of Peter Max: How His Style Made Him an Art...

    Peter Max is ...
    Read More
  • Park West and Scott Jacobs Help Raise Funds for Young Musicians

    When Park West Gallery teams up with its artists for a good cause, they make great music together.Park West Gallery helped raise $7,000 for the Amelia Island Jazz Festival’s music ...
    Read More
  • 5 Facts You May Not Know About Yaacov Agam

    Israeli artist Yaacov Agam is a groundbreaking pioneer of the kinetic art movement. As such, art lovers around the world are familiar with his transformative artwork and art installations ...
    Read More
  • Behind the Artist: Pierre-Auguste Renoir

    More than 150 years ago, Pierre-Auguste Renoir persevered financial hardship and ridicule from critics to become one of the most famous artists in history and a central figure in ...
    Read More
  • Cruise Ship Art Auctioneer Founds Charity, Builds Much-Needed School in Zambia

    As Park West Art Auctioneer Naomi Baldwin traveled through Southern Africa, she was shocked by how many children were playing in the streets during school hours.She quickly discovered that ...
    Read More
  • Support the Arts with Park West Gallery and the 7th Annual Big Band...

    Park West Gallery is once again joining the Amelia Island Jazz Festival to support future musicians with the Big Band Bash.The Amelia Island Jazz Festival will hold its annual Big ...
    Read More