Conservation and authenticity: Interactions and enquiries

User menu

Publication Type:

Journal Article


David A. Scott;


Studies in Conservation, Volume 60, Number 5, p.291-305 (2015)


The possible meanings in conservation of the word authenticity are discussed and some different definitions are briefly evaluated. Recent research showing the brain reacts differently to the concepts of copy and authentic is reviewed. The relationship between cultural heritage charters and how authenticity has been employed in them is explored with examples from the Athen's Charter, The Venice Charter, The Nara Document, The San Antonio Declaration, and the UNESCO World Heritage Documents. Several examples are discussed in the text concerning the interactions between authenticity and restoration, employing the examples of ancient buildings and old master paintings. Some of the important writings on the subject of authenticity by scholars and art historians are reviewed. Criteria which could be used to evaluate the concept of authenticity in different cultural settings are discussed and these are illustrated with case studies taken from restoration carried out on ancient marble sculptures, the Sistine Chapel frescoes by Michelangelo, and the artwork of several prominent forgers. Given that concerns about the authenticity of art are multi-dimensional, it is important that the present fragmentation of the arguments concerning authenticity across the disciplines properly take into account the conservation field and are aware of the debates within conservation concerning this topic. The questioning of the relevance of authenticity is a healthy process, and may now be framed quite differently from the way in which it was discussed even 20 years ago.