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A revolutionary technology invented to detect counterfeit parts in the automotive and aerospace industries has now been adapted to detect counterfeit works of art.

The developers of the “Optical Recognition System” claim to have created “tamper-proof digital fingerprints” of paintings and sculptures, which would allow, for example, museums to determine in seconds whether an original work has been replaced by a fake.

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Recently, a German museum became the victim of such a crime. The employee replaced the three paintings with fakes and sold the originals to treat himself to a Rolls-Royce and other luxuries.

The technology, called Origify, was developed by Bosch in 2017 to stop the sale of counterfeit parts for cars and aircraft. The German manufacturing company is the largest supplier to the automotive industry. Before Origify was developed, it was fighting counterfeiting and other fraud in the manufacturing and aftermarket.


Such counterfeit parts include exhaust sensors that are too small to carry identification tags or markings. A special camera system captures selected unique details normally invisible to the human eye, stores the data in a “tamper-proof cloud” and performs authentication using a smartphone app. Oliver Steinbis, inventor of Origify, said: “It’s really like seeing someone’s fingerprint, a unique fingerprint that cannot be duplicated.

“Due to the statistical limitations of our algorithm, it is impossible to identify an unregistered image as an original. Even with art prints of the same production, the images are uniquely recognizable.

As an art lover, he suddenly realized that he could apply it to painting, printmaking and sculpture. Even if the work is restored, the untouched areas still provide important information. Steinbis is due to meet with European museum security chiefs next month.

Michael Daly, director of independent art watchdog ArtWatch UK, said: “Bosch’s scheme is technically very feasible. Every work of art – from drawings and prints to paintings and sculpture – is a manufactured object and mo “No matter how skillfully an intended facsimile imitates the optical appearance of a particular work of art, it cannot reproduce the means by which that work was originally constructed. Inevitably, at some level of investigation, the exact differences of genesis are obvious.” lady.”

In September 2023, the German case involved the Deutsches Museum in Munich, where an archive worker took a painting by the art nouveau artist Franz von Stuck. Once Upon a time (Once upon a time), 1891, painting based on a fairy tale The frog prince.

He replaced it with a forgery and sold the original through German auction house Keterrer Kunst for €70,000 (£60,000). He stole three more paintings by 19th-century German artists, two of which he managed to sell at auction.

According to a museum spokesman, Stuck was originally part of the collection under study, and when another staff member noticed its unusual back, “it was quickly realized that this painting was not an original, but a forgery.” The thief received a 21-month suspended sentence and was ordered to pay back more than €60,000.

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