- Laurence Libin
The process of verifying that an instrument is a genuine product of a specific maker, school, or time, or (especially in the case of altered instruments) that it actually is what it purports to be. Authentication can involve connoisseurship, forensic science, research into provenance, and, for modern works, eye-witness testimony. However, substantive proof that an instrument was made by a certain individual is often impossible; evidence acceptable by judicial standards might not be scientifically valid. Authentication depends on defining the characteristics of a maker’s style, including craftsmanship and use of particular materials and forms; however, these can vary over the course of a career. Further, it is necessary to show that this maker’s (or school’s) style is unique and has not been replicated by copyists or fakers; the more valuable and older a maker’s products, the more likely they are to have been copied, honestly or fraudulently. Hence, special care is necessary in authenticating works by celebrated makers, particularly pre-19th-century European luthiers, whose instruments often serve as models for later production. Caution is also needed in declaring an instrument a forgery, because public repudiation of authenticity risks litigation for product disparagement and can forestall further examination....