When a forgery is exposed, people in the art world generally have the same reaction: how could anyone have ever been fooled by something so obviously phony, so artless? Few connoisseurs still think that Han van Meegeren’s paintings look at all like Vermeers, or even have any artistic value. Forgers usually succeed not because they are so talented but, rather, because they provide, at a moment in time, exactly what others desperately want to see. Conjurers as much as copyists, they fulfill a wish or a fantasy. And so the inconsistencies—crooked signatures, uncharacteristic brushstrokes—are ignored or explained away.
If a forgery’s success were to depend on fake fingerprints, rather than on the sly imitation of a painter’s style, it would represent a radical departure from the methods employed by art forgers over thousands of years. And yet such a forgery would perfectly reflect the contemporary faith in science to conquer every realm, even one where beauty is supposed to be in the eye of the beholder.