This drawing of an Alpine landscape was until recently attributed to the Renaissance-era artist Pieter Bruegel the Elder of the Netherlands, who lived from 1525 until 1569. In 1991, art historians began to suspect the work was not authentic because its watermark has been associated with papers not documented before the mid-1580s. (Photo: Courtesy of the Morgan Library)

Determining what is real and what is fake has long been a problem for art curators. It is estimated that 20 percent of the worldwide art market is made up of forgeries. But art lover and Dartmouth College mathematics department Chairman Daniel Rockmore has developed a technique that is helping to determine the difference between excellent copy and the real McCoy.

“I joke a lot that I am a mathematician by mistake,” says Rockmore. “It was something that I had an aptitude at, but I’ve always had lots of interests.”

One thing Rockmore is particularly interested in is art. And a few years ago, his professional skills and personal interest collided.


Joe Palca