Art Crime pp 27-32 | Cite as

Connoisseurship All the Way Down: Art Authentication, Forgery, Fingerprint Identification, Expert Knowledge

  • Simon A. Cole


How do you know whether a painting is really painted by a particular person, or a fingerprint is made by a particular finger? You ask an expert. But, in the case of the painting, what kind of expert should you trust?1 An art historian, a forensic art expert, or a fingerprint examiner with expertise in detecting fingerprint forgeries? This question has been raised in disputes over art authentication since as early as the 1930s.2 An engaging article by David Grann (2010) in the New Yorker updated a story that I have been following and writing about for several years that raises interesting questions about the production and evaluation of expert knowledge.3


Expert Knowledge Absolute Objectivity Federal District Court Print Image Latent Print 
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  1. 2.
    Henk Tromp, A Real Van Gogh: How the Art World Struggles with Truth (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2010). Print.Google Scholar
  2. 6.
    Simon A. Cole, “Jackson Pollack, Judge Pollak, and the Dilemma of Fingerprint Expertise.” Expertise in Regulation and Law, ed. Gary Edmond (Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2004), United States V. Llera Plaza. 179 E Supp. 2d 492. E.D. Pa. 2002. (vacated and withdrawn).Google Scholar
  3. 7.
    David Bernstein, “Expert witnesses, adversarial Bias, and the (Partial) failure of the Daubert Revolution” Iowa Law Review 93, 2008, 129.Google Scholar
  4. 9.
    Pat A. Wertheim, Scientific Examination Report: Fingerprint Forgery Case (Phoenix: Global Fine Art Registry, 2008).Google Scholar
  5. 12.
    National Research Council, Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward (Washington: The National Academies, 2009).Google Scholar
  6. 17.
    Christophe Champod and Ian W. Evett, “A Probabilistic Approach to Fingerprint Evidence” Journal of Forensic Identification 51, 2, 2001.Google Scholar
  7. 22.
    Thomas A. Busey and Itiel E. Dror, “Special Abilities and Vulnerabilities in Forensic Expertise,” The Fingerprint Sourcebook, ed. Scientific Working Group on Friction Ridge Analysis Study and Technology (SWGFAST) et al. (Washington, DC: National Institute of Justice, 2011).Google Scholar

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© Simon A. Cole 2016

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  • Simon A. Cole

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