One of the potential ways to recover $ 500 million in stolen artwork is a scientific analysis of paint chips by microscopic detective work done by Chicago-based innovators in the field.
After a late-night robbery, investigators, museum staff, and journalists spent years chasing dead-end tips. A lead was brought to Tom Mashberg, a former Boston Herald reporter. A small scammer who claims to have one of the stolen works, Rembrandt’s “The Storm on the Sea of Galaria”. However, Mashberg was not an art expert and had to prove that his work was genuine.
“We thought about paint debris, and I say in a documentary,” Is it so difficult to scrape off a little paint? ” “Walter McCrone in Chicago has done a lot of work to uncover fraud using an electron microscope.”
Well, it’s not accurate. In fact, McCrone favored a polarizing microscope, a rather simple but less powerful tool.
“It’s a kind of vulnerable person,” McCrone told WTTW’s “The New Explorers” in 1990. I’m absolutely sure I can’t do without it. “
After studying at Cornell University, he took up a research position in Chicago in 1944. In 1960, he McKrone Institute In Bronzeville. It is now run by his disciple Gary Laughlin.
“During all the years I worked with him, the first 17 years of my career, he started his day at 3:30 am,” Laughlin said. “I hadn’t seen him leave the building or quit his job until after he heard the news at 6 pm every night. 7 days a week.”
The institute continues its mission initiated by McCrone, including research, journaling, holding symposiums, teaching intensive courses on how to use microscopes, and learning specific optical properties of materials such as shape, size, color, and transparency. I’m focusing.
“The range of students is huge,” Laughlin said. “They come from almost every laboratory where microscopes may exist, with all industries, academia, governments, and scientists working.”
Since its establishment in 1960, the institute has attracted more than 30,000 students from all over the country and around the world.
McCrone has also become world-famous for his analysis of hundreds of works of art and other historical objects. One of McCrone’s most notable works under the microscope was the Turin shroud, allegedly the burial shroud of Jesus, stained with traces of believers claiming to be blood.
“His conclusion was that there was no blood-in fact, these were pigments. Red ocher,” Laughlin said.
With trained eyes like McCrone and Laughlin, two colors that look the same on the canvas look very different under a microscope. Laughlin used French ultramarine as an example and had bright blue paint in the jar.
“It’s modern because it’s a synthetic fiber. The original ultramarine was crushed rock, lapis lazuli. It’s very expensive,” Laughlin said. “No one is using it today because it’s so expensive … Now, if the counterfeiter knew it, they would use the original material. They would grind it themselves and ex May make their own pigments in the way artists might have done. “
Laughlin made a known laugh at the suggestion that a micrographer might make a good counterfeiter.
“That’s absolutely true. In fact, Dr. McCrone said,” What every good counterfeiter needs to know. ” “
McCrone analyzed his work using a polarizing microscope and then handed it to Laughlin to confirm the results with an electron microscope, including Rembrandt’s analysis, which was allegedly featured in “This Is a Robbery.”
“With that limited taste, his immediate conclusion-he was given only a few chips-was that this could certainly be Rembrandt,” Laughlin said. “And that was the question he was asked,” means that the paint debris could have come from one of Rembrandt’s contemporaries.
The attention to detail Mac Krone wrote a correction to a copy of an article about his work at the Boston Herald. Sadly, the paint shards turned out to be yet another spark of false hope to regain the stolen art.
Macrone’s work of analyzing art may have been exciting, but Laughlin says it was really a side project. McCrone’s core work of teaching people about microanalysis continues today. The pandemic has forced a shift to online learning and a significant reduction in enrollment, but the situation is finally improving.
“I know there is this instrument that other instruments can’t do, and I want to share it with the world,” Laughlin said.
McCrone died in 2002. In an interview with WTTW in 1990, he described the sophisticated work in simple words.
“What you are doing is magnifying these small particles to a size that normally looks like a macroscopic object. And if you can see them all at a glance here, you can do the same under a microscope. It’s that easy, “said McCrone.
What about the suspicious Rembrandt McCrone analyzed paint chips? Neither that nor any other work stolen from the Gardner Museum has been recovered.
Note: This story will be updated in the video.
Chicago-based scientists who helped find art world scams | Chicago News
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