One of the most important things to study in a painting suspected of being a fake is the paint itself. Did the pigment used by the artist exist when the artist was alive? Is it the same painting that the painter generally used?
Luckily, modern physics and chemistry have the tools to find out this and much more.
Through chemical analysis we can learn a lot about paint, as long as we have a little sample of it.
But there are less invasive techniques such as spectroscopy, which can tell a lot about a pigment just by shining a laser on it. It turns out that each pigment has a unique chemical "signature." It looks like this:
Here a couple of spectra for two different pigments.
Today, the kids had to solve a mini-mystery comparing the spectrum of a mystery pigment to the spectra of a few known pigments. And of course they did!