The old art attribution question of who did what routinely raises its mistrusting head. Experts have even doubted that Mona Lisa was painted entirely by Da Vinci.

The latest artwork under scrutiny is Peter Paul Rubens’1610 painting "Samson and Delilah." The Observer reports new technology showing that the painting, prized by London’s National Gallery as one the “highlights” in its collection, could never have been made by Rubens.

Science looks at art

Scientific tests of the myriad brushstrokes conducted by the Swiss-based tech company Art Recognition, make clear that the painting wasn’t even made in Ruben’s century.

Dr. Carina Popovici, a Ph.D. in theoretical particle physics and co-owner of the company, is quoted saying, “The algorithm has returned a 91% probability for the artwork not being authentic.”

As a baseline, Popovici used 148 indisputable Rubens paintings for comparison. The answer was always the same no matter how many times she ran the tests, she said. “Every patch, every single square, came out as fake, with more than 90% probability.” Popovici spoke of being “shocked.”

Being “shocked” by the test results is hard to understand. Art critics have long contended that the colors and composition were off, that the painting was a copy of one that disappeared after Rubens died. But when the painting surfaced in 1929, it was proclaimed a Rubens by art historian Ludwig Burchard.

Money spoiled the picture

But wait, after Burchard died in 1960, his attributions were found suspect because they were linked to profit-making. The National Gallery, which purchased the painting from Christie’s in 1980 for $5 million, has so far disregarded this revelation.

As already noted, this isn’t the first time that work by Rubens is called out as a copy.

Discuss this news on Eunomia

Consider the six giant canvases that greet visitors when they enter the Ringling Museum’s lead-off gallery designated the Rubens Room and then consider what the chief curator Anthony Janson wrote in 1986.

Janson asserted in his book - “Great Paintings from the John and Mable Ringling Museums of Art” - that the museum’s set of Rubens paintings, collectively called The Triumph of the Eucharist, are not necessarily by his hand:

“As with Rubens’ other large projects, the Eucharist paintings necessarily involved at least several assistants.” And Janson added, “Most scholars see little evidence of Rubens’ hand.” The painting Samson and Delilah is also large, measuring 73 in x 81 in, and fits Janson’s description of “other large objects.”

And when it comes to one of the largest Ringling Rubens, The Triumph of Divine Love, measuring 152 in x 204 in, Janson said it shows “the fewest signs of his intervention.” All that said, the Ringling Rubens are regularly touted as “the greatest treasures of the Ringling Museum.”

Rubens and Rick’s Cafe

Given that Rubens paintings are well-known to be by others, Dr.

Carina Popovici’s shock recalls the French police captain Renault in the ’42 flick Casablanca exclaiming in Rick’s Cafe, “I’m shocked, shocked that gambling is going on in here,” as a croupier hands him his winnings.

Maybe scientists should leave art discoveries to the art world and work to discover cures for the sick.