Amsterdam, Friday, April 19, 2019
Rembrandt on Chain
A 17th century etching by Rembrandt has been immortalized with the help of multiple blockchains, so that the work is now better protected against art fraud. The validation of Rembrandt’s “The Virgin and Child in the Clouds” took place this week on location at Douwes Fine Art, one of the oldest art dealers in Europe. By validating works of art via blockchain, objects are better protected and the authenticity can be established easier and faster. An important step forward in the fight against art fraud.
The validation process was a collaboration between expert and registered appraiser Evert Douwes and his son Evert-Anthony (owners of the family business Douwes Fine Art), Femke Stroucken (notary and partner at law firm CMS) and Marnix van den Berg (co-founder of validation company V-ID).
Blockchain method for physical objects
The unique characteristics of the etching were first digitized with macro photography. Together with other characteristics, such as material, formats and history of the work, these photos were collected in a so-called validation file and stored in four different blockchains. Thanks to the blockchain technology, every recipient of this file can check within 5 seconds whether it is still exactly the same as when it was validated.
The embedded macro photos can be used to compare the unique details, such as paper, markings and strokes, with the physical work, in order to check the authenticity. In principle, this method can be applied to any unique physical object such as diamonds, archaeological finds and evidence.
Innovation in the art world
Evert Douwes is very charmed by this solution. “Innovations like this are special for the art world and at the same time there is some skepticism. Innovation is great, but there really needs to be added value for our customers. But I am convinced that validating via blockchain will help fight art fraud.“ Evert-Anthony Douwes: “Not only do we help to combat art fraud with this, the validation in blockchain also gives more value to the expertise of the work. With this digitization process we collect all information and knowledge about an object and bundle it into one validated PDF file. An important step; imagine losing your collected knowledge in a fire, for example.”
Third party is essential
Femke Stroucken (CMS): “By incorporating a jurisdiction check of parties in such applications at the front, the reliability of information on the blockchain is increased. After all, it is important to know the person who issues such a certificate is also authorized to do so. The notary therefore has an essential role to play in the validation process. You can compare this case with depositing a document at the notary. However, when applying blockchain, extra account must be taken into the General Data Protection Regulation. “
Blockchain and GDPR
Marnix van den Berg (V-ID) explains how this blockchain method relates to the privacy rules: “Blockchain is a way to store events forever, whereby the GDPR principle ‘the right to be forgotten’ is therefore in some cases impractical. We would solve this by “stamping” data in a decentralized way. This data can only be accessed by the owner of a certain type of password. “ Finally, he added: “This year is Rembrandt year in the Netherlands, and his works are a priority right now, but we are already dreaming of the next project. ‘The Sunflowers’ and ‘Girl with a Pearl Earring’ naturally have a great appeal, but a work such as ‘Who is afraid of Red, Yellow and Blue’ could also use a validation effort. Projects like this are the icing on the cake, the rest of the week we are mainly concerned with the validation of invoices, measurement results and diplomas.”
About Douwes Fine Art
“Douwes” is an art dealership and restoration firm founded in 1770 and registered as a gallery in 1805. It is Europe’s oldest family art store with departments in Amsterdam and London. The restoration studio dating from the mid-18th century is still an important part of the activities today. The services that are offered to clients include insurance valuation and authentication, organization of slide shows and lectures, advice on purchase and sale. Douwes Fine Art offers five centuries of paintings, works on paper and sculpture from both the Dutch school, including original etchings by Rembrandt, and from Flemish, French, Russian, modern and non-European schools.
CMS is one of the largest law firms in the world with 4800 lawyers, 1100 partners and 72 branches in 41 countries. Together with one guiding principle: Your World First. At CMS in the Netherlands, 160 lawyers, notaries and tax specialists form a full-service practice. The specialists combine sector knowledge and thorough local expertise. At national and international level. CMS has offices in Amsterdam and Utrecht in the Netherlands.
V-ID is a Dutch validation and verification service based on blockchain technology. It is V-ID’s mission to certify and secure digital files, so that fraud and errors no longer hold back innovations in digitization. V-ID’s blockchain as a service has been in use since 2018 with a growing number of clients in various fields, including education, medical, legal, research and tech.