endrochronological analysis is used to date and authenticate paintings on wooden supports, wooden sculptures, jewelry boxes, furniture and other wooden works of art. This method of dating helps to determine the tree’s felling date by measuring the width of the annual rings on the panels and comparing the growth ring curve resulting from this measurement with dated master chronologies. Since the characteristics of the growth ring curve over several centuries are unique and specific to wood of differing geographical origins, it is possible to obtain a relatively precise dating of art-objects, as well as their provenance. Applying dendrochronological analysis to a 15th-16th Century unknown Flemish Primitive panel can provide a rather precise dating and identification of the origin of wood (Spain or Flanders, for instance), thereby considerably narrowing the search for the master’s identity.
How does it work?
Certain species of trees produce wide rings during wet years and, inversely, narrow rings during dry seasons. Each year, a tree adds a layer of wood to its trunk and branches, thus creating the annual rings we see when viewing a cross section. The climatic changes or patterns in specific geographic areas can be traced by the study of old living trees. Samples taken from trees of unknown age can then be studied for matches with samples from trees with known sequences of growth.