What We Do

Welcome to Fine Art Investigations

Fine Art Investigations is dedicated to preserving the artistic and historic legacy embedded in 19th century American portraits. FAI initially began as in 1999 with a search for lost George Caleb Bingham portraits. That search evolved into a commitment to accurately identify artists. To streamline the identification process, FAI  merged scholarly expertise and technological tools into a comprehensive system.  With a good image and at least one good clue, FAI can date a portrait, identify the artist, and name the subject at a price that fits clients’ needs.

Examples of Artist Identifications

Accurate Artist Identification

The legal and ethical standard for accurate artist identification, as expressed by the College Arts Association, which promotes best practices in the visual arts, is a consensus of evidence from:

  1. Art-historical documentation, including provenance
  2. Stylistic connoisseurship
  3. Technical or scientific analysis [1]

Fine Art Investigations  uses this “three-legged stool approach.”

Comprehensive System

For the first two “legs” of the “stool” — art-historical documentation and stylistic connoisseurship — Fine Art Investigations merged technological tools and scholarly expertise into a comprehensive system.

 Art-historical documentation

Image files of 3,000 + 19th century fashion plates

Each portrait is treated as an artifact to be dated. Through the fashion plate collection, as well as dated portraits, Fine Art Investigations quickly pinpoints when the portrait was created.

Database of names, dates, and locations of 19th century American portrait artists painstakingly culled from hundreds of sources

The portrait is placed in the proper region from research from a good clue. A search of dates and locations produces the names of possible artists.

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Chronological image files for every portrait artist in the database

By comparing the portrait with images of the work of the possible artists, the probabilities narrow. If more than one artist stands out, Fine Art Investigations analyzes small details that artists unconsciously repeat, such as the way an artist paints an ear or a hand, a piece of lace, or an eyelash.

After identifying the probable artist, Fine Art Investigations makes every effort to vet the attribution with experts on the specific artist.

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Technical or Scientific Analysis

Since the values of 19th century American portraits, unfortunately, do not yet reach astronomical levels, forgeries are unprofitable. The most profitable type of fraud is mis-attribution. To ensure a consensus of evidence, however, Fine Art Investigations arranges scientific examinations at the best facility closest to the client’s home.

Examples of Artist Identifications

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Getting Started

Please provide:

1. Good photographs of the painting

• In its entirety with frame
• In its entirety with as little of the frame showing as possible
• Closeups of major objects, including face and hands, if shown

2. Dimensions of the work:

• Unframed
• Framed

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3. A Good Clue


• Provenance (history of ownership)
If not known, name, birth date, location of one former owner

• Name of subject
 If not known, name, birth date, location of one family member

• Any clue that can answer the questions: who, what, when, where

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Just as every portrait is unique so, too, is every art research project.  Please contact Fine Art Investigations by email at fineartinvestigations@gmail.com or by phone, 360-244-2745 (captioned), to discuss your particular needs.

Generally, costs range from:

$150 for a non-binding attribution to

$1,500 for a bound written report with full documentation and color illustrations

Additional costs may include consultant fees and conservator examination

Consultant fees are generally $150 / hour

Conservator examination varies according to institution. Fine Art Investigations can coordinate examination. If there is a charge, the owner pays the museum directly.

We look forward to working with you to restore artists’ identities one portrait at a time.

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(c) Fine Art Investigations, 2017
All Rights Reserved


[1] Standards & Guidelines, CAA Guidelines, “Authentications and Attributions: Recommendations and Practices, 3.B.,” College Art Association, http://www.collegeart.org/standards-and-guidelines/guidelines/authentications,/small>