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Identification of Antique Oil Paintings: Things You Probably Didn’t Know


One of the most common concerns I hear from art lovers and other dealers is how to tell if a piece is an original antique oil painting or a replica. It may appear sometimes very clear, but it is many things has been developed to make the artwork look like older one. Apart from science, the best way to approach it is to gather all of the appraising facts and create an conclusion about originality.

How to recognize the originality of antique oil paintings?

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Here are a few ideas on how to recognize an antique Asian art oil painting, especially with a focus on canvas work.

  • Duskiness of Canvas

The first identification we can try to look for is on the back side of the canvas. If the shade of the cloth is darker, then it is an antique and not a reproduction. The fact is that the older ones tend to get dusky with age.

There isn’t always a clear identification between how black coarse cloth(cloth used for making oil paintings, also called canvas) is and how ancient it is. In addition, many canvases are relined, with around half of the ones we have.

  • Lining on the canvas

For regeneration purposes, lining is the act of connecting an older coarse cloth to a newer one. Paintings were frequently relined or lined during the nineteenth century, so yours may appear to be ancient but not as old as it is. Examine the canvas attentively to check if it has more than one layer to see whether it has been lined or not.

Fakers have been known to affix their reproductions to older canvases in order to make them look older. Additionally, some oil paintings are made on paper, then transferred to canvas, and then relined, which can be confusing to the eye. You can see how the lustrous paper has been layered on top of a coarse cloth.

  • Dusky Stretcher frames

The design of European and American canvas stretchers has evolved through time, and they can help determine the date of a painting. What age does the wood appear to be? Are there any ancient duplicates lying around? You could even find some handcrafted wooden cylindrical rod if it’s a few hundred years old.

Over the years, several artists have made their own stretchers, which may look to be simple in construction and appear older than they are.

  • Cracks on the painting surface

The front of a vintage painting can also give further proof of its age as an antique work. Old oil (and fast dying) paintings, for example, will have a delicate pattern of cracks known as craquelure. It’s important looking at these thoroughly to determine if they appear to be aged naturally or unnaturally. If a painting has been thoroughly enameled and the polish has yellow-colored over time, it’s a bit more difficult to identify them.

It is possible to produce the look of cracks artificially, so if you’re unsure, get advice from professionals of Chinese art dealers. Artificial cracking might often look to be a touch too uniform to be considered natural.

  • Paint that has been raised

Hold the canvas flat and examine all around the surface for raised paint, which is common in oil vintage paintings. However, keep in mind that the paint layer might potentially be completely flat, especially if it’s been relined.

  • Carefully look for the dots

Looking for dots under a 10x magnification is one technique to identify if you’re holding a current print. Mechanical/digital replicas have used dots in a regular pattern since the mid-twentieth century. Dots may also appear on older copies, although in an unpredictable pattern.

Many ancient replicas, such as antique engravings, have no dots at all. This is also true of recent high quality prints of excellent standard.

The other way to recognize old oil paintings

These things are easily identified by the experts of Asian antique appraisers. These are the dealers who buy old paintings at a good rate.

The only way to be certain is to analyze all of the evidence and make an informed guess. And, of course, if you’re unsure, get advice from a professional Asian antique dealer who is always active in clearing your doubts in the online world or in your local area.

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