Rembrandt on Chain
Blockchain for physical objects
First Blockchain Validated Rembrandt
A 17th-century etching by Rembrandt has been immortalized with the help of multiple blockchains to better protect the work against art fraud. The validation of Rembrandt's "The Virgin and Child in the Clouds" took place this week 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.
To check the authenticity, the embedded macro photos can be used to compare the unique details such as paper, markings, and strokes with the physical work. 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, but 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."
The validation process
Third party is essential
Femke Stroucken (CMS): “By incorporating a jurisdiction check of parties in such applications at the front, the reliability of the 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, extra energy must be put to take the General Data Protection Regulation into account.”
Marnix van den Berg, Founder V-ID: “This year is Rembrandt year in the Netherlands, and his works are a priority right now. Projects like this really are the icing on the cake."
Blockchain and GDPR
Marnix van den Berg (V-ID) explains how this blockchain method relates to the privacy laws: " Blockchain is a way to store events forever making the GDPR princple ‘the right to be forgotten’ seem unenforceable. We 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. His works are in the spotlight 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 piece 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 busy with the validation of invoices, measurement results and diplomas."
V-ID looking at the full Rembrandt collection at Douwes FIne Art
Douwes Fine Art 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.