Peter Paul Biro
Fine Art Conservation & Forensic Studies in Art


Each work of art presents unique questions. Through the application of the appropriate methodologies, we can implement a broad range of examinations and non-invasive testing to understand the painting’s conservation history and present physical condition.
Determining what is actually part of the original structure of the painting and not a result of later interventions by other hands is crucial during the search for answers about authenticity and conservation issues. We use a wide range of analytical techniques from hyper-spectral high resolution digital imaging to in-situ Raman spectroscopy, see list of equipment below.
Our examinations may reveal substances that were not available to artists at the alleged date of the creation of the object. They can shed light on the artist’s techniques and choice of materials which can be evidence of authorship, or help in the discovery of misattributions and forgery. Such data form the foundations of proper "due diligence" studies that are so vital for safe transactions in today's art market.

All examinations and tests are performed employing well established and widely accepted protocols.

Watercolour cakes manufactured by Joshua Rogers London, 1860s
Biro Collection of Historical Pigments

The use of fingerprints for identifying an individual is a well-established practice accepted worldwide. When such evidence is found on a work of art, understanding the connection between a fingerprint left in paint and the painting itself can shed light on who created it. Such evidence may fill the gap where provenance information is partial or altogether lacking.

In some cases where DNA is available,  the evidence opens the door for yet another approach for supporting a claim of authenticity.

Materials analysis
Our laboratory is outfitted with some of the most advanced analytical equipment available. In-house scientific capabilities and equipment include:

Optical microscopy: transmitted light (TLM), reflected (RLM) and polarized light techniques (PLM) using a LOMO Zeiss Polam-P instrument equipped with a Nikon D90 14-megapixel camera

Stereo microscopy: Leica S8APO with an 18-megapixel OMAX USB 3.0 camera

Raman microscopy: AvaRaman 785TEC attached to a specially fitted Zeiss optical microscope. Software is by LabCognition using the Panorama Pro program version 3.1

Electron microscopy: Hitachi TM3030 scanning electron microscope (SEM) using Hitachi proprietary software

Elemental analysisBruker Quantax 70 x-ray detector installed in the Hitachi 3030 using Bruker proprietary software (EDX)

Fourier Transform Infrared Microscopy: Perkin Elmer Spectrum 2 and Spotlight 200i with ATR, transmission and reflectance modes and liquid nitrogen cooled detector (FTIR). The instrument uses databases for identification from both in-house collections as well as commercially available databases of good provenance. In total, close to 300,000 reference samples can be searched

Photography: Nikon D810 36.3 megapixel camera using an assortment of high quality Nikon objectives

Hyperspectral imaging: custom designed and built imaging platform capable of scanning a 6ft x 8ft object from 300 nanometers to 1100 nanometers using a chilled SBIG scientific camera. Scanning is performed through various optics specifically designed for the ultraviolet, visible and near-infrared regions of the spectrum. Scanner motion, camera/sensor activation and data capture are controlled by custom developed software NeutrinoIAC build by CPCSoft Engineering and the author. Scanner motion controls were developed by ttp:// and the author

Digital image processing: Adobe Photoshop CS6 and ImagePro 6.3 by Media Cybernetics

Hyper-spectral scanning has become a vital tool that helps with so many aspects of forensic investigation. Much of our results come from spectral imaging including locating fingerprints, old repairs and even DNA bearing samples such as human hair.

Provenance research
The art historical context as well as provenance research are equally important in authentication studies. We routinely investigate and audit provanance data and assist clients to assure their claims are correct and verifiable. Such studies are an integral part of due diligence work and are vital in preparation for a sale or purchase.

Sampling is performed in a clean-room environment with airborne particles to 0.3 microns to avoid possible contamination of samples. Humidity is maintained between 40%-55% RH at 22 degrees Celsius or as required by the object. Works of art, along with samples and data are kept in a fire and waterproof vault in the laboratory equipped with 24/7 monitored detectors. Our emphasis is always on non-invasive methods whenever possible. Physical removal of any material (sampling by chipping or scraping) from the artwork, no matter how small the sample, is something we believe is a method that is becoming a thing of the past. We only perform it as appropriate. Exhaustive materials analyses are a crucial component of due diligence. Some of our work done in collaboration with scholars, experts, and technicians across many disciplines are featured on our Publications page.