Han van Meegeren

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Han van Meegeren
Van Meegeren painting Jesus Among the Doctors in 1945
Henricus Antonius van Meegeren

(1889-10-10)10 October 1889
Deventer, Netherlands
Died30 December 1947(1947-12-30) (aged 58)
Amsterdam, Netherlands
Occupation(s)Painter, art forger
Anna de Voogt
(m. 1912; div. 1923)
Jo Oerlemans
(m. 1928)
ChildrenJacques Henri Emil

Henricus Antonius "Han" van Meegeren (Dutch pronunciation: [ɦɛnˈrikʏs ɑnˈtoːnijəs ˈɦɑɱ vɑˈmeːɣərə(n)]; 10 October 1889 – 30 December 1947)[1] was a Dutch painter and portraitist, considered one of the most ingenious art forgers of the 20th century.[2] Van Meegeren became a national hero after World War II when it was revealed that he had sold a forged painting to Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands.[3]

Van Meegeren attempted to make a career as an artist, but art critics dismissed his work. He decided to prove his talent by forging paintings from the Dutch Golden Age. Leading experts of the time accepted his paintings as genuine 17th-century works, including Dr. Abraham Bredius.[4]

During World War II, Göring purchased one of Meegeren's "Vermeers", which became one of his most prized possessions. Following the war, Van Meegeren was arrested on a charge of selling cultural property to the Nazis. Facing a possible death penalty, Van Meegeren confessed the painting was a forgery. He was convicted on 12 November 1947, and sentenced to one year in prison.[5] However; he died on 30 December 1947 after two heart attacks.[6] A biography in 1967 estimated that Van Meegeren duped buyers out of more than US$30 million; his victims included the government of the Netherlands.[7][8]

Early years[edit]

Han (diminutive for Henri or Henricus) van Meegeren was born in 1889, the third of five children of Augusta Louisa Henrietta Camps and Hendrikus Johannes van Meegeren, a French and history teacher at the Kweekschool (training college for schoolteachers) in the provincial city of Deventer.[4][9]

While attending the Higher Burger School, Han met teacher and painter Bartus Korteling (1853–1930) who became his mentor. Korteling had been inspired by Johannes Vermeer and taught Van Meegeren Vermeer's techniques. Korteling had rejected the Impressionist movement and other modern trends as decadent, degenerate art, and his strong personal influence may have led van Meegeren to do likewise.[10]

Han van Meegeren designed this boathouse (the building in the centre, adjoining an old tower in the town wall) for his Rowing Club D.D.S. while studying architecture in Delft from 1907 to 1913.

Van Meegeren's father did not share his son's love of art; he often forced Han to write a hundred times, "I know nothing, I am nothing, I am capable of nothing."[11][12] Instead, Han's father compelled him to study architecture at the Delft University of Technology in 1907.[4] He received drawing and painting lessons, as well. He easily passed his preliminary examinations but never took the Ingenieurs (final) examination because he did not want to become an architect.[9] He nevertheless proved to be an apt architect and designed the clubhouse for his rowing club in Delft which still exists (see image).[9]

In 1913, Van Meegeren gave up his architecture studies and concentrated on drawing and painting at the art school in The Hague. On 8 January 1913, he received the prestigious Gold Medal from the Technical University in Delft for his Study of the Interior of the Church of Saint Lawrence (Laurenskerk) in Rotterdam.[11] The award was given every five years to an art student who created the best work, and was accompanied by a gold medal.

On 18 April 1912, Van Meegeren married fellow art student Anna de Voogt who was pregnant with their first child.[13] The couple initially lived with Anna's grandmother in Rijswijk, and their son Jacques Henri Emil van Meegeren was born there on 26 August 1912.

Career as a legitimate painter[edit]

The Deer (or "Hertje") is one of Han van Meegeren's best-known original drawings.

In 1914, Van Meegeren moved his family to Scheveningen and completed the diploma examination at the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague,[9] which allowed him to teach. He took a position as the assistant to the Professor of Drawing and Art History. In March 1915, his daughter Pauline was born, later called Inez.[9] To supplement his small salary of 75 guldens per month, Han sketched posters and painted pictures for Christmas cards, still-life, landscapes, and portraits for the commercial art trade.[13] Many of these paintings are quite valuable today.[14]

Van Meegeren's first exhibition was held from April to May 1917 at the Kunstzaal Pictura[15] in the Hague. In December 1919, he was accepted as a member by the Haagse Kunstkring, an exclusive society of writers and painters who met weekly on the premises of the Ridderzaal. Although he had been accepted, he was ultimately denied the position of chairman.[16] He painted the tame roe deer belonging to Princess Juliana. The painting, Hertje (The fawn) was completed in 1921, and became popular in the Netherlands. He undertook numerous journeys to Belgium, France, Italy, and England, and acquired a name for himself as a portraitist, earning commissions from English and American socialites who spent their winter vacations on the Côte d'Azur. His clients were impressed by his understanding of the 17th-century techniques of the Dutch masters. Throughout his life, Van Meegeren signed his own paintings with his own signature.[17]

By all accounts,[which?] infidelity[whose?] was responsible for the breakup of Van Meegeren's marriage to Anna de Voogt; the couple divorced on 19 July 1923.[18][19] Anna moved to Paris, where Van Meegeren visited his children from time to time. He dedicated himself to portraiture and began producing forgeries to increase his income.[20]

He married actress Johanna Theresia Oerlemans in Woerden in 1928, with whom he had been living for the past three years. Johanna's stage name was Jo van Walraven, and she had previously been married to art critic and journalist Dr. C H. de Boer (Carel de Boer). She brought their daughter Viola into the Van Meegeren household.[13]

Rejection by the critics[edit]

Han van Meegeren's mansion Primavera in Roquebrune-Cap-Martin where he painted his forgery The Supper at Emmaus in 1936, which sold for about US$300,000

Van Meegeren had become a well-known painter in the Netherlands with the success of Hertje (1921) and Straatzangers (1928).[13] His first legitimate copies were painted in 1923, his Laughing Cavalier and Happy Smoker, both in the style of Frans Hals. By 1928, the similarity of Van Meegeren's paintings to those of the Old Masters began to draw the reproach of Dutch art critics, who said that his talent was limited outside of copying other artists' work.[12]

One critic wrote that he was "a gifted technician who has made a sort of composite facsimile of the Renaissance school, he has every virtue except originality".[21] Van Meegeren responded in a series of aggressive articles in De Kemphaan ("The Ruff"), a monthly periodical published by van Meegeren and journalist Jan Ubink from April 1928 until March 1930.[22] Jonathan Lopez writes that Van Meegeren "denounced modern painting as 'art-Bolshevism' in the articles, described its proponents as a 'slimy bunch of woman-haters and negro-lovers,' and invoked the image of 'a Jew with a handcart' as a symbol for the international art market".[4][23]

Van Meegeren set out to prove to the art critics that he could more than copy the Dutch Masters; he would produce a work to rival theirs.

The "perfect forgery"[edit]

In 1932, Van Meegeren moved to the village of Roquebrune-Cap-Martin with his wife. There he rented a furnished mansion called "Primavera" and set out to define the chemical and technical procedures that would be necessary to create his perfect forgeries. He bought authentic 17th-century canvases and mixed his own paints from raw materials (such as lapis lazuli, white lead, indigo, and cinnabar) using old formulas to ensure that they could pass as authentic. In addition, he created his own badger-hair paintbrushes similar to those that Vermeer was known to have used.

He came up with a scheme of using phenol formaldehyde (Bakelite) to cause the paints to harden after application, making the paintings appear as if they were 300 years old. Van Meegeren would first mix his paints with lilac oil, to stop the colours from fading or yellowing in heat. (This caused his studio to smell so strongly of lilacs that he kept a vase of fresh lilacs nearby so that visitors wouldn't be suspicious.)[24] Then, after completing a painting, he would bake it at 100 °C (212 °F) to 120 °C (248 °F) to harden the paint, and then roll it over a cylinder to increase the cracks. Later, he would wash the painting in black India ink to fill in the cracks.[5][25]

The Supper at Emmaus (1937)

It took Van Meegeren six years to work out his techniques, but ultimately he was pleased with his work on both artistic and deceptive levels. Two of these trial paintings were painted as if by Vermeer: Lady Reading Music, after the genuine paintings Woman in Blue Reading a Letter at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam; and Lady Playing Music, after Vermeer's Woman With a Lute Near a Window hanging in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Van Meegeren did not sell these paintings; both are now at the Rijksmuseum.[26]

Following a journey to the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, Van Meegeren painted The Supper at Emmaus. In 1934 Van Meegeren had bought a seventeenth century mediocre Dutch painting, The Awakening of Lazarus, and on this foundation he created his masterpiece à la Vermeer. The experts assumed that Vermeer had studied in Italy, so Van Meegeren used the version of Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio's Supper at Emmaus located at Italy's Pinacoteca di Brera as a model.[13] He gave the painting to his friend, attorney C. A. Boon, telling him that it was a genuine Vermeer, and asked him to show it to Dr. Abraham Bredius, the art historian, in Monaco. Bredius examined the work in September 1937 and, writing in The Burlington Magazine, he accepted it as a genuine Vermeer and praised it very highly as "the masterpiece of Johannes Vermeer of Delft".[27][4] The usually required evidences, such as resilience of colours against chemical solutions, white lead analysis, x-rays images, micro-spectroscopy of the colouring substances, confirmed it to be an authentic Vermeer.[28]

The painting was purchased by The Rembrandt Society for fl.520,000 (€235,000 or about €4,640,000 today),[29] with the aid of wealthy shipowner Willem van der Vorm, and donated to the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam. In 1938, the piece was highlighted in a special exhibition in occasion of Queen Wilhelmina's Jubilee at a Rotterdam museum, along with 450 Dutch old masters dating from 1400 to 1800. A. Feulner wrote in the "Magazine for [the] History of Art", "In the rather isolated area in which the Vermeer picture hung, it was as quiet as in a chapel. The feeling of the consecration overflows on the visitors, although the picture has no ties to ritual or church", and despite the presence of masterpieces of Rembrandt and Grünewald, it was defined as "the spiritual centre" of the whole exhibition.[30][28]

Painting The Last Supper I by Han van Meegeren on 11th art and antiques fair in Rotterdam August 31, 1984. - In the summer of 1938, van Meegeren moved to Nice. 1939 he painted The Last Supper I in the style of Vermeer.

In 1938, Van Meegeren moved to Nice, buying a 12-bedroom estate at Les Arènes de Cimiez with the proceeds from the sale of the painting. On the walls of the estate hung several genuine Old Masters. Two of his better forgeries were made here, Interior with Card Players and Interior with Drinkers, both displaying the signature of Pieter de Hooch. During his time in Nice, he painted his Last Supper I in the style of Vermeer.[31]

He returned to the Netherlands in September 1939 as the Second World War threatened. After a short stay in Amsterdam, he moved to the village of Laren in 1940. Throughout 1941, Van Meegeren issued his designs, which he published in 1942 as a large and luxurious book entitled Han van Meegeren: Teekeningen I (Drawings nr I). He also created several forgeries during this time, including The Head of Christ, The Last Supper II, The Blessing of Jacob, The Adulteress, and The Washing of the Feet—all in the manner of Vermeer. On 18 December 1943, he divorced his wife, but this was only a formality; the couple remained together, but a large share of his capital was transferred to her accounts as a safeguard against the uncertainties of the war.[32]

In December 1943, the Van Meegerens moved to the exclusive Keizersgracht 321 in Amsterdam.[33] His forgeries had earned him between 5.5 and 7.5 million guilders (or about US$25–30 million today).[34][35] He used this money to purchase a large amount of real estate, jewellery, and works of art, and to further his luxurious lifestyle. In a 1946 interview, he told Marie Louise Doudart de la Grée that he owned 52 houses and 15 country houses around Laren, among them grachtenhuizen, mansions along Amsterdam's canals.[11]

Hermann Göring[edit]

Han van Meegeren's Jesus among the Doctors, also called Young Christ in the Temple (1945).

In 1942, during the German occupation of the Netherlands, one of Van Meegeren's agents sold the Vermeer forgery Christ with the Adulteress to Nazi banker and art dealer Alois Miedl. Experts could probably have identified it as a forgery; as Van Meegeren's health declined, so did the quality of his work. He chain-smoked, drank heavily, and became addicted to morphine-laced sleeping pills. However, there were no genuine Vermeers available for comparison, since most museum collections were in protective storage as a prevention against war damage.[36]

Nazi Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring traded 137 looted paintings for Christ with the Adulteress.[37] On 25 August 1943, Göring hid his collection of looted artwork, including Christ with the Adulteress, in an Austrian salt mine, along with 6,750 other pieces of artwork looted by the Nazis. On 17 May 1945, Allied forces entered the salt mine and Captain Harry Anderson discovered the painting.[38]

In May 1945, the Allied forces questioned Miedl regarding the newly discovered Vermeer. Based on Miedl's confession, the painting was traced back to Van Meegeren. On 29 May 1945, he was arrested and charged with fraud and aiding and abetting the enemy. He was remanded to the Weteringschans prison as an alleged Nazi collaborator and plunderer of Dutch cultural property, threatened by the authorities with the death penalty.[21] He labored over his predicament, but eventually confessed to forging paintings attributed to Vermeer and Pieter de Hooch.[14] He exclaimed, "The painting in Göring's hands is not, as you assume, a Vermeer of Delft, but a Van Meegeren! I painted the picture!"[39] It took some time to verify this, and Van Meegeren was detained for several months in the Headquarters of the Military Command at Herengracht 458 in Amsterdam.[40]

Van Meegeren painted his last forgery between July and December 1945 in the presence of reporters and court-appointed witnesses: Jesus among the Doctors, also called Young Christ in the Temple[41] in the style of Vermeer.[42][43] After completing the painting, he was transferred to the fortress prison Blauwkapel. Van Meegeren was released from prison in January or February 1946.

Trial and prison sentence[edit]

The trial of Han van Meegeren began on 29 October 1947 in Room 4 of the Regional Court in Amsterdam.[44] The collaboration charges had been dropped, since the expert panel had found that the supposed Vermeer sold to Hermann Göring had been a forgery and was, therefore, not the cultural property of the Netherlands. Public prosecutor H. A. Wassenbergh brought charges of forgery and fraud and demanded a sentence of two years in prison.[5]

Evidence against Han van Meegeren: a collection of pigments.

The court commissioned an international group of experts to address the authenticity of Van Meegeren's paintings. The commission included curators, professors, and doctors from the Netherlands, Belgium, and England, and was led by the director of the chemical laboratory at the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, Paul B. Coremans.[5][45][46] The commission examined the eight Vermeer and Frans Hals paintings which Van Meegeren had identified as forgeries. With the help of the commission, Dr Coremans was able to determine the chemical composition of van Meegeren's paints.

He found that the paint contained the phenolformaldehyde resins Bakelite and Albertol as paint hardeners.[5][19][47] A bottle had been found in Van Meegeren's studio.[48] As Bakelite was not discovered until the 20th century, this proved that the paintings could not be genuine.

The commission also suggested that the dust in the craquelure was too homogeneous to be of natural origin. It appeared to come from India ink, which had accumulated even in areas that natural dirt or dust would never have reached. The paint had become so hard that alcohol, strong acids, and bases did not attack the surface, a clear indication that the surface had not been formed in a natural manner. The craquelure on the surface did not always match that in the ground layer, which would certainly have been the case with a natural craquelure. Thus, the test results obtained by the commission appeared to confirm that the works were forgeries created by Van Meegeren, but their authenticity continued to be debated by some of the experts until 1967 and 1977, when new investigative techniques were used to analyze the paintings (see below).

On 12 November 1947, the Fourth Chamber of the Amsterdam Regional Court found Han van Meegeren guilty of forgery and fraud, and sentenced him to one year in prison.[49]


While waiting to be moved to prison, Van Meegeren returned to his home, where his health continued to decline. During this last month of his life, he strolled freely around his neighbourhood.[50]

Van Meegeren suffered a heart attack on 26 November 1947, the last day to appeal the ruling, and was rushed to the Valeriuskliniek, a hospital in Amsterdam.[51] While at the hospital, he suffered a second heart attack on 29 December, and was pronounced dead at 5:00 pm on 30 December 1947 at the age of 58. Soon after his death, a plaster death mask was made, which was acquired by the Rijksmuseum in 2014.[52] His family and several hundred of his friends attended his funeral at the Driehuis Westerveld Crematorium chapel. In 1948, his urn was buried in the general cemetery in the village of Diepenveen (municipality of Deventer).[53]


The auction of the estate of Han van Meegeren (in Dutch).

After his death, the court ruled that Van Meegeren's estate be auctioned and the proceeds from his property and the sale of his counterfeits be used to refund the buyers of his works and to pay income taxes on the sale of his paintings. Van Meegeren had filed for bankruptcy in December 1945. On 5 and 6 September 1950, the contents of his Amsterdam house were auctioned, along with 738 other pieces of furniture and works of art, including numerous paintings by old and new masters from his private collection. The house was auctioned separately on 4 September.

The proceeds amounted to 123,000 guilders. Van Meegeren's unsigned The Last Supper I was bought for 2,300 guilders, while Jesus among the Doctors (which Van Meegeren had painted while in detention) sold for 3,000 guilders (about US$800 or about US$7,000 today.)[34] Today the painting hangs in a Johannesburg church. The sale of the entire estate amounted to 242,000 guilders[54] (US$60,000, or about US$500,000 today).[34]

Throughout his trial and bankruptcy, Van Meegeren maintained that his second wife Jo had nothing to do with his forgeries. A large part of his considerable wealth[55] had been transferred to her when they divorced , and the money would have been confiscated if she had been ruled to be an accomplice. Though some biographers believe she must have known the truth,[12] her involvement was never proven and she was able to keep her substantial capital. Jo outlived her husband by many years, in luxury, until her death at the age of 91.

M. Jean Decoen's objection[edit]

M. Jean Decoen, a Brussels art expert and restorer, stated in his 1951 book he believed The Supper at Emmaus and The Last Supper II to be genuine Vermeers, and demanding that the paintings should again be examined. He also claimed that Van Meegeren used these paintings as a model for his forgeries.[56][57] Daniel George Van Beuningen was the buyer of The Last Supper II, Interior with Drinkers, and The Head of Christ, and he demanded that Dr. Paul Coremans publicly admit that he had erred in his analysis. Coremans refused and van Beuningen sued him, alleging that Coremans's wrongful branding of The Last Supper II diminished the value of his "Vermeer" and asking for compensation of £500,000 (about US$1.3 million or about US$10 million today).[34]

The first trial in Brussels was won by Coremans, because the court adopted the same reasoning of the court ruling at Van Meegeren's trial. A second trial was delayed owing to Van Beuningen's death on 29 May 1955. In 1958 the court heard the case on behalf of Van Beuningen's heirs. Coremans managed to give the definitive evidence of the forgeries by showing a photograph of a Hunting Scene, attributed to A. Hondius, exactly the same scene which was visible with X-ray under the surface of the alleged Vermeer's Last Supper. Moreover, Coremans brought a witness to the courtroom who confirmed that Van Meegeren bought the Hunt scene in 1940.[58] The court found in favour of Coremans, and the findings of his commission were upheld.[59]

Further investigations[edit]

In 1967, the Artists Material Center at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh examined several of the "Vermeers" in their collection, under the direction of Robert Feller and Bernard Keisch. The examination confirmed that several of their paintings were in fact created using materials invented in the 20th century. They concluded that they could be Van Meegeren forgeries. The test results obtained by the Carnegie Mellon team are summarized below.

Han van Meegeren knew that white lead was used during Vermeer's time, but he had to obtain his stocks through the modern colour trade. In the 17th century, lead was mined from deposits located in the Low Countries; however, by the 19th century, most lead was imported from Australia and the Americas, and differed both in isotope composition and in the content of trace elements. Dutch white lead was extracted from ores containing high levels of trace elements of silver and antimony,[60] while the modern white lead used by Van Meegeren contained neither, as those elements are separated from the lead during the modern smelting process.[61]

Forgeries in which modern lead or white lead pigment has been used can be recognized by using a technique called Pb(Lead)-210-Dating.[62] Pb-210 is a naturally occurring radioactive isotope of lead that is part of the uranium-238 Radioactive decay series, and has a half-life of 22.3 years. To determine the amount of Pb-210, the alpha radiation emitted by another element, polonium-210 (Po-210), is measured.[63] Thus it is possible to estimate the age of a painting, within a few years' span, by extrapolating the Pb-210 content present in the paint used to create the painting.[61][64]

The white lead in the painting The Supper at Emmaus had polonium-210 values of 8.5±1.4 and radium-226 (part of the uranium-238 radioactive decay series) values of 0.8±0.3. In contrast, the white lead found in Dutch paintings from 1600 to 1660 had polonium-210 values of 0.23±0.27 and radium-226 values of 0.40±0.47.[65]

In 1977, another investigation was undertaken by the States forensic labs of the Netherlands using up-to-date techniques, including gas chromatography, to formally confirm the origin of six van Meegeren forgeries that had been alleged to be genuine Vermeers, including the Emmaus and the Last Supper. The conclusions of the 1946 commission were again reaffirmed and upheld by the Dutch judicial system.[66]

In 1998, A&E ran a program called Scams, Schemes & Scoundrels highlighting Van Meegeren's life and art forgeries, many of which had been confiscated as Nazi loot. The program was hosted by skeptic James Randi.

In July 2011, the BBC TV programme Fake or Fortune investigated a copy of Dirck van Baburen's The Procuress owned by the Courtauld Institute.[67] Opinion had been divided as to whether it was a 17th-century studio work or a Van Meegeren fake.[67] The programme used chemical analysis of the paint to show that it contained bakelite and thus confirmed that the painting was a 20th-century fake.[67]


A collection of genuine and fake signatures of Han van Meegeren

In 2008, Harvard-trained art historian Jonathan Lopez published The Man Who Made Vermeers, Unvarnishing the Legend of Master Forger Han Van Meegeren. His extensive research confirmed that Van Meegeren started to make forgeries, not so much because of feeling misunderstood and undervalued by art critics as some maintain, but for the income that it generated, which he needed to support his addictions and lavish lifestyle.

Van Meegeren's father was said to have once told Van Meegeren, "You are a cheat and always will be."[68] Van Meegeren sent a signed copy of his own art book to Adolf Hitler, which turned up in the Reich Chancellery in Berlin complete with an inscription (in German): "To my beloved Führer in grateful tribute, from H. van Meegeren, Laren, North Holland, 1942". He only admitted the signature was his own, although the entire inscription was by the same hand.[4][23] He bought up homes of several departed Jewish families in Amsterdam and held lavish parties while much of the country was hungry. On the other hand, his brothers and sisters perceived him as loyal, generous, and affectionate, and he was always loving and helpful to his own children.

Van Meegeren continued to paint after he was released from prison, signing his works with his own name. His new-found profile ensured quick sales of his new paintings, often selling at prices that were many times higher than before he had been unmasked as a forger. Van Meegeren also told the news media that he had "an offer from a Manhattan gallery to come to the U.S. and paint portraits 'in the 17th-century manner' at US$6,000 a throw".[69]

A Dutch opinion poll conducted in October 1947 placed Han van Meegeren's popularity second in the nation, behind only the Prime Minister's and slightly ahead of Prince Bernhard, the husband of Princess Juliana.[70] The Dutch people viewed Van Meegeren as a cunning trickster who had successfully fooled the Dutch art experts and, more importantly, Hermann Göring himself. In fact, according to a contemporary account, Göring was informed that his "Vermeer" was actually a forgery and "[Göring] looked as if for the first time he had discovered there was evil in the world".[21] Lopez, however, suggests Göring may never have known the painting was a fake.[4]

Lopez indicates that Han van Meegeren's defence during his trial in Amsterdam was a masterpiece of trickery, forging his own personality into a true Dutchman eager to trick his critics and also the Dutch people by pretending that he sold his fake Vermeer to Göring because he wanted to teach the Nazi a lesson.[citation needed] Van Meegeren remains one of the most ingenious art counterfeiters of the 20th century.[35] After his trial, however, he declared, "My triumph as a counterfeiter was my defeat as [a] creative artist."[71]

List of forgeries[edit]

Known forgeries[edit]

Han van Meegeren's forgery of The Procuress by Dirck van Baburen
Malle Babbe

List of known forgeries by Han van Meegeren (unless specified differently, they are after Vermeer):[72][73][74]

  • A counterpart to Laughing Cavalier after Frans Hals (1923) once the subject of a scandal in The Hague in 1923, its present whereabouts is unknown.
  • The Happy Smoker after Frans Hals (1923) hangs in the Groninger Museum in the Netherlands
  • Man and Woman at a Spinet 1932 (perhaps without misleading intentions,[75] sold to Amsterdam banker, Dr. Fritz Mannheimer)
  • Lady reading a letter[76] 1935–1936 (unsold, on display at the Rijksmuseum)
  • Lady playing a lute and looking out the window[77] 1935–1936 (unsold, on display at the Rijksmuseum)
  • Portrait of a Man[78] 1935–1936 in the style of Gerard ter Borch (unsold, on display at the Rijksmuseum)
  • Woman Drinking after Frans Hals (version of Malle Babbe)[79] 1935–1936 (unsold, on display at the Rijksmuseum.)
  • The Supper at Emmaus, 1936–1937 (sold to the Boymans for 520,000–550,000 guldens, about US$300,000 or US$4 Million today)
  • Interior with Drinkers 1937–1938 (sold to D G. van Beuningen for 219,000–220,000 guldens about US$120,000 or US$1.6 million today)
  • The Last Supper I, 1938–1939
  • Interior with Cardplayers 1938–1939 (sold to W. van der Vorm for 219,000–220,000 guldens US$120,000 or US$1.6 million today)
  • The Head of Christ, 1940–1941 (sold to D G. van Beuningen for 400,000–475,000 guldens about US$225,000 or US$3.25 million today)
  • The Last Supper II, 1940–1942 (sold to D G. van Beuningen for 1,600,000 guldens about US$600,000 or US$7 million today)
  • The Blessing of Jacob 1941–1942 (sold to W. van der Vorm for 1,270,000 guldens about US$500,000 or US$5.75 million today)
  • Christ with the Adulteress 1941–1942 (sold to Hermann Göring for 1,650,000 guldens about US$624,000 or US$6.75 million today, now in the public collection of Museum de Fundatie[80])
  • The Washing of the Feet[81] 1941–1943 (sold to the Netherlands state for 1,250,000–1,300,000 guldens about US$500,000 or US$5.3 million today, on display at the Rijksmuseum)
  • Jesus among the Doctors September 1945 (painted during trial under Court's control, and sold at auction for 3,000 guldens, about US$800 or US$7,000 today)
  • The Procuress given to the Courtauld Institute as a fake in 1960 and confirmed as such by chemical analysis in 2011.

Posthumously, Van Meegeren's forgeries have been shown in exhibitions around the world, including exhibitions in Amsterdam (1952), Basel (1953), Zürich (1953), Haarlem in the Kunsthandel de Boer (1958), London (1961), Rotterdam (1971), Minneapolis (1973), Essen (1976–1977), Berlin (1977), Slot Zeist [nl] (1985), New York (1987), Berkeley, CA (1990), Munich (1991), Rotterdam (1996), The Hague (1996) and more recently at the Haagse Kunstkring, The Hague (2004) and Stockholm (2004), and have thus been made broadly accessible to the public.[82][83][84]

Potential forgeries[edit]

It is possible that other fakes hang in art collections all over the world. Jacques van Meegeren suggested that his father had created a number of other forgeries, during interviews with journalists[85] regarding discussions with his father.[86] Some of these possible forgeries include:

Smiling Girl may have been painted by Van Meegeren
  • Boy with a Little Dog and The Rommelpotspeler after Frans Hals. The Frans Hals catalogue by Frans L. M. Dony[87] mentions four paintings by this name attributed to Frans Hals or the "school of Frans Hals".
  • A counterpart to Vermeer's Girl with a Pearl Earring. A painting called Smiling Girl hangs in the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. (bequest Andrew W. Mellon) which has been recognized by the museum as a fake. It was attributed to Theo van Wijngaarden, friend and partner of Van Meegeren, but may have been painted by Van Meegeren.
  • Lady with a Blue Hat after Vermeer which was sold to Baron Heinrich Thyssen in 1930. Its present whereabouts are unknown. It is often referred to as the “Greta Garbo” Vermeer.

Original artwork[edit]

Van Meegeren was a prolific artist and produced thousands of original paintings in a number of diverse styles. This wide range in painting and drawing styles often irritated art critics. Some of his typical works are classical still lifes in convincing 17th century manner, Impressionistic paintings of people frolicking on lakes or beaches, jocular drawings where the subject is drawn with rather odd features, Surrealistic paintings with combined fore- and backgrounds. Van Meegeren's portraits, however, are probably his finest works.[9][86]

Among his original works is his famous Deer, pictured above. Other works include his prize-winning St. Laurens Cathedral;[88] a Portrait of the actress Jo Oerlemans[89] (his second wife); his Night Club;[90] from the Roaring Twenties; the cheerful watercolor A Summer Day on the Beach[91] and many others.

The forger forged[edit]

Van Meegeren's own work rose in price after he had become known as a forger, and it consequently became worthwhile to fake his paintings, as well. Existing paintings obtained a signature "H. van Meegeren", or new pictures were made in his style and falsely signed. When Van Meegeren saw a fake like that, he ironically remarked that he would have adopted them if they had been good enough, but regrettably he had not yet seen one.

Later on, however, his son Jacques van Meegeren started to fake his father's work. He made paintings in his father's style – although of much lower quality – and was able to place a perfect signature on these imitations. Many fakes – both by Jacques and by others – are still on the market. They can be recognized by their low pictorial quality, but are not always regarded as such.

In media[edit]

Han Van Meegeren was played by Guy Pearce in the movie The Last Vermeer, which tells the story of the investigation into his sale of the painting "Jesus and the Adulteress" to Nazi officer Hermann Göring.[92][93]

The movie was based on the book The Man Who Made Vermeers, Unvarnishing the Legend of Master Forger Han Van Meegeren, by Jonathan Lopez.[94]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ "Han van Meegeren". RKD (in Dutch). Archived from the original on 27 June 2015. Retrieved 9 October 2018.
  2. ^ Dutton, Denis (2005). "Authenticity in Art". In Jerrold Levinson (ed.). The Oxford handbook of aesthetics. Oxford [Oxfordshire]: Oxford University Press. pp. 261–263. ISBN 0-19-927945-4. Archived from the original on 2021-05-08. Retrieved 2016-09-23.
  3. ^ Keats, Jonathon (2013). Forged: Why Fakes are the Great Art of Our Age. Oxford [Oxfordshire]: Oxford University Press. p. 69. ISBN 9780199279456. Archived from the original on 2021-05-08. Retrieved 2016-09-23.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Peter, Schjeldahl (October 27, 2008). "Dutch Master". The New Yorker. Archived from the original on 28 February 2009. Retrieved 20 July 2009.
  5. ^ a b c d e Williams, Robert C. (2013). The forensic historian: using science to reexamine the past. Armonk, N.Y.: M.E. Sharpe. ISBN 978-0765636621. Archived from the original on 4 September 2015. Retrieved 27 August 2015.
  6. ^ "Janet Wasserman – Han van Meegeren and his portraits of Theo van der Pas and Jopie Breemer (3)". Rob Scholte Museum. 24 September 2014. Archived from the original on 22 May 2015. Retrieved 2 September 2015.
  7. ^ Equivalent of the total amount in dollars stated by Kilbracken in Appendix II, a biography published in 1967.
  8. ^ "Calculate the Value of $30 in 1967. How much is it worth today?".
  9. ^ a b c d e f Kreuger, 2007.p 22.
  10. ^ Godley, 1951:129 - 134
  11. ^ a b c Doudart de la Grée, Marie-Louise (Amsterdam 1966) Geen Standbeeld voor Van Meegeren (No Statue for Van Meegeren). Nederlandsche Keurboekerij Amsterdam. OCLC 64308055
  12. ^ a b c Godley, John (Lord Kilbracken) (1951). Van Meegeren, master forger. p:127 - 129. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. LC call number: ND653.M58 K53 1966. OCLC 31674916
  13. ^ a b c d e Dutton, Denis (1993). "Han van Meegeren (excerpt)". In Gordon Stein (ed.). Encyclopedia of hoaxes. Detroit: Gale Research. ISBN 0-8103-8414-0.
  14. ^ a b Kreuger 2007
  15. ^ Tentoonstelling van schilderijen, acquarellen, en teekeningen door H. A. van Meegeren. The Hague: Kunstzaal Pictura, 1917.
  16. ^ "Han van Meegeren", Wikipedia (in Dutch), 2021-11-28, retrieved 2022-02-23
  17. ^ Kreuger 2007:208
  18. ^ Godley, 1951:143–147
  19. ^ a b Bailey, Anthony (2002). Vermeer: A View of Delft. Clearwater, Fla: Owl Books. p. 253. ISBN 0-8050-6930-5.
  20. ^ Kreuger 2007:46 and 56
  21. ^ a b c Wynne, Frank (8 May 2006). "The forger who fooled the world". The Telegraph. London. Archived from the original on 2019-04-04. Retrieved 2012-06-15.
  22. ^ Van Meegeren, Han (partly under alias) (April 1928–March 1930). De Kemphaan.
  23. ^ a b Campbell-Johnston, Rachel (19 February 2021). "The Last Vermeer: how one man's counterfeits duped the art world". The Times. London. Archived from the original on 20 February 2021. Retrieved 20 February 2021.(subscription required)
  24. ^ Godley, John (1951). Master Art Forger: The Story of Han Van Meegeren. Wilfred Funk. pp. 12–13.
  25. ^ Godley, 1951: pp. 43-56, 86–90
  26. ^ "Rijksmuseum Amsterdam - Nationaal Museum voor Kunst en Geschiedenis". Rijksmuseum.nl. Archived from the original on 2011-06-09.
  27. ^ Bredius, Abraham (November 1937). "A new Vermeer". The Burlington Magazine. pp. 210–211. Archived from the original on October 28, 2009.
  28. ^ a b Bianconi, Piero (1967). Vermeer. Gemeinshaftsausgabe Kunstkreis Luzern Buchclub Ex Libris Zürich. p. 100.
  29. ^ To obtain the relative present value the amount in Dutch Guilders was given for the year 1938 at inflation calculator from/to Guilders or Euros Archived 2017-09-02 at the Wayback Machine.
  30. ^ Schueller, 1953: p. 28
  31. ^ The Last Supper I was recovered in September 1949, during a search of the estate of Dr. Paul B. Coremans; x-ray examinations revealed that van Meegeren had reused the canvas of a painting by Govert Flinck.
  32. ^ Kreuger 2007: p. 136
  33. ^ Boissevain, Jeremy (1996) Coping With Tourists: European Reactions to Mass Tourism. Berghahn Books. p233. ISBN 1-57181-878-2
  34. ^ a b c d To obtain the present value in U.S. currency for a given year the number of guilders was divided by the rate of exchange (guilders or pounds per dollar) Archived 2010-09-04 at the Wayback Machine for that year. The value in U.S. currency for a given year was then entered into the formula at What is the Relative Value? Archived 2006-05-14 at the Wayback Machine to obtain the present value (Consumer Price Index for 2005).
  35. ^ a b Bailey, 2002:234
  36. ^ Bailey 2003:255
  37. ^ "How Mediocre Dutch Artist Cast 'The Forger's Spell'". NPR.org. Archived from the original on 2018-11-24. Retrieved 2018-04-03.
  38. ^ Morris, Errol (June 1, 2009). "Bamboozling Ourselves (Part 4)". Blogs. The New York Times. Retrieved November 10, 2022.
  39. ^ Schueller, 1953:16
  40. ^ Kreuger 2007:146
  41. ^ Kreuger 2007:152–155
  42. ^ "tnunn.ndo.co.uk". ndo.co.uk. Archived from the original on August 24, 2013.
  43. ^ "Van Meegeren's Fake Vermeer's". essentialvermeer.com. Archived from the original on 2015-08-26. Retrieved 2012-07-08.
  44. ^ Godley, 1951:268–281
  45. ^ Coremans, Paul B. (1949). Van Meegeren's faked Vermeers and De Hooghs: a scientific examination. Amsterdam: J. M. Meulenhoff. OCLC 2419638.
  46. ^ Schueller, 1953: 18–19
  47. ^ A.H. Huussen, Cahiers uit het Noorden, Zoetermeer 2009; the texts of the original experts report of 10 Jan. 1947 and that of the sentence of the Amsterdam district court 12 Nov 1947 were retrieved by prof. Huussen in 2009.
  48. ^ Roth, Toni (1971). "Methods to determine identity and authenticity". The art and the beautiful home 83:81–85.
  49. ^ "Truth & Consequences". Time. November 24, 1947.
  50. ^ Wallace, Irving. 'The Man Who Swindled Goering', in The Sunday Gentleman. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1965 (originally published 1946).
  51. ^ Godley, 1951:282
  52. ^ "Zoeken". Rijksmuseum (in Dutch). Retrieved 2022-02-27.
  53. ^ ten Dam, René. "Dood in Nederland (Dead in the Netherlands)" (in Dutch). Archived from the original on 2011-07-16. Retrieved 2007-05-25.
  54. ^ "Not for Money". Time. September 18, 1950.
  55. ^ "Authentication in Art List of Unmasked Forgers". Archived from the original on 2017-12-22. Retrieved 2017-12-21.
  56. ^ Decoen, Jean (1951). Retour à la véritè, Vermeer-Van Meegeren: Deux Authentiques Vermeer (Back to the truth, Vermeer-Van Meegeren: Two genuine Vermeers). Rotterdam: Editions Ad. Donker. Illustrations: b/w. OCLC 3340265.
  57. ^ Schueller, 1953:48–58
  58. ^ Bianconi, Piero (1967). Vermeer. Gemeinshaftsausgabe Kunstkreis Luzern Buchclub Ex Libris Zürich. p. 101.
  59. ^ Godley, 1951:256–258
  60. ^ Strauss, R.(1968). "Analysis of investigations of pigments from paintings of south German painters in the 17th and 18th century"/ (With 62 slides). Thesis. Technical University Munich.
  61. ^ a b Exhibition catalog Essen and Berlin. Falsification and Research (1976) "Museum Folkwang, Essen and Staatliche Museen Preußischer Kulturbesitz, Berlin". Berlin. Language: German. ISBN 3-7759-0201-5.
  62. ^ Keisch, B. (1968). "Dating Works of Art through Their Natural Radioactivity: Improvements and Applications". Science. 160 (3826): 413–415. Bibcode:1968Sci...160..413K. doi:10.1126/science.160.3826.413. PMID 17740234. S2CID 38078513.
  63. ^ Flett, Robert (8 October 2003). Understanding the Pb-210 Method. Archived 2017-10-19 at the Wayback Machine
  64. ^ Froentjes, W., and R. Breek (1977). "A new study into the identity of the [portfolio] of Van Meegeren". Chemical Magazine: 583–589.
  65. ^ Keisch, B.; Feller, R. L.; Levine, A. S.; Edwards, R. R. (1967). "Dating and Authenticating Works of Art by Measurement of Natural Alpha Emitters". Science. 155 (3767): 1238–1242. Bibcode:1967Sci...155.1238K. doi:10.1126/science.155.3767.1238. PMID 17847535. S2CID 23046304.
  66. ^ Nieuw onderzoek naar het bindmiddel van Van Meegeren (New investigations in the chemicals of Han van Meegeren), Chemisch Weekblad Nov. 1977. (in Dutch).
  67. ^ a b c "Rembrandt". Fake or Fortune?. Episode 4. 2011-07-10. BBC. Archived from the original on 2011-08-06. Retrieved 2011-08-04.
  68. ^ Doudart de la Grée, 1946a:145, 230
  69. ^ "The Price of Forgery". Time. November 18, 1946.
  70. ^ Lopez, Jonathan (2008). The Man who Made Vermeers: Unvarnishing the Legend of Master Forger Han Van Meegeren. Harcourt. p. 214. ISBN 9780151013418. Retrieved 27 March 2021.
  71. ^ Doudart de la Grée, 1946a:224
  72. ^ Van Brandhof, Marijke (1979). Early Vermeer 1937. Contexts of life and work of the painter/falsifier Han van Meegeren. (Catalogue of Han van Meegeren work pp. 153–163, with numerous illustrations of the pictures with the signature H. van Meegeren.) Dissertation. Utrecht: The Spectrum.
  73. ^ De Boer, H., and Pieter Koomen (1942). Photographs of the paintings of Han van Meegeren: Han van Meegeren (Teekeningen I). With a preface by Drs-Ing. E. A. van Genderen Stort. 'sGravenhage: Publishing House L. J. C. Boucher.
  74. ^ Kostelanetz, Richard; H. R. Brittain; et al. (2001). A dictionary of the avant-gardes. New York: Routledge. p. 636. ISBN 0-415-93764-7.
  75. ^ Bianconi, Piero (1967). Vermeer. Gemeinshaftsausgabe Kunstkreis Luzern Buchclub Ex Libris Zürich. p. 102.
  76. ^ "Brieflezende vrouw - Het Geheugen van Nederland - Online beeldbank van Archieven, Musea en Bibliotheken". Geheugenvannederland.nl. Archived from the original on 2015-10-16. Retrieved 2013-12-29.
  77. ^ "Cisterspelende vrouw - Het Geheugen van Nederland - Online beeldbank van Archieven, Musea en Bibliotheken". Geheugenvannederland.nl. Archived from the original on 2015-10-16. Retrieved 2013-12-29.
  78. ^ "Portret van een man - Het Geheugen van Nederland - Online beeldbank van Archieven, Musea en Bibliotheken". Geheugenvannederland.nl. Archived from the original on 2015-10-16. Retrieved 2013-12-29.
  79. ^ "Malle Babbe". geheugenvannederland.nl. Archived from the original on 2015-10-16. Retrieved 2021-11-05.
  80. ^ [1][dead link]
  81. ^ "De voetwassing - Het Geheugen van Nederland - Online beeldbank van Archieven, Musea en Bibliotheken". Geheugenvannederland.nl. Archived from the original on 2015-10-16. Retrieved 2013-12-29.
  82. ^ Mondadori, Arte Arnaldo (1991). "Genuinely wrong" (Villa Stuck, München). Fondation Cartier.
  83. ^ Schmidt, Georg (ed.) (1953). "Wrong or genuine?" (Basel, Zürich). Basel Art Museum.
  84. ^ Van Wijnen, H. (1996). "Exhibition catalog Rotterdam". Han van Meegeren. (With 30 black-and-white and 16 colour pictures.) The Hague. Language: Dutch.
  85. ^ Schueller, 1953:46–48
  86. ^ a b Kreuger, Frederik H. (2004). The life and work of Han Van Meegeren, master-forger page 173. (Published in Dutch as Han van Meegeren, Meestervervalser. Includes 130 illustrations, some in colour, many of them new.) OCLC 71736835.
  87. ^ Frans L.M. Dony (1976) Frans Hals (1974, Rizolli Editore Milano) (1976, Lekturama Rotterdam). Note: This book is considered by the Frans Hals Museum in Haarlem to be the best survey of the works of Frans Hals.
  88. ^ "St. Laurens Cathedral image". Archived from the original on 2012-03-11. Retrieved 2012-05-05.
  89. ^ "Portrait of the actress Jo Oerlemans image". Archived from the original on 2012-03-11. Retrieved 2012-05-05.
  90. ^ "Night Club". Archived from the original on 2012-03-11. Retrieved 2012-05-05.
  91. ^ [2] Archived March 27, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  92. ^ Fleming, Mike Jr. (April 25, 2018). "Guy Pearce Stars & Imperative's Dan Friedkin Directs 'Lyrebird', About Art Forger Whose Paintings Duped Nazis". Deadline. Retrieved April 25, 2018.
  93. ^ Kenny, Glenn (2020-11-19). "'The Last Vermeer' Review: A Lost Masterpiece Is Only the Beginning". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2023-06-08.
  94. ^ Lopez, Jonathan (2008). The Man who Made Vermeers: Unvarnishing the Legend of Master Forger Han Van Meegeren. Harcourt. ISBN 978-0-15-101341-8

  • Kreuger, Frederik H. (2007) A New Vermeer, Life and Work of Han van Meegeren. Rijswijk, Holland: Quantes. ISBN 978-90-5959-047-2

Further reading[edit]

List of Works


  • Arend Hendrik Huussen Jr.: Henricus (Han) Antonius van Meegeren (1889 - 1945). Documenten betreffende zijn leven en strafproces. (Cahiers uit het noorden 20), Zoetermeer, Huussen 2009.
  • Arend Hendrik Huussen Jr.: Henricus (Han) Antonius van Meegeren (1889 - 1945). Documenten, supplement. (Cahiers uit het noorden 21), Zoetermeer, Huussen 2010.

Han van Meegeren biographies

  • Baesjou, Jan (1956). The Vermeer forgeries: The story of Han van Meegeren. G. Bles. A biography/novel based on the author's conversations with van Meegeren's second wife. OCLC 3949129
  • Brandhof, Marijke van den (1979): Een vroege Vermeer uit 1937: Achtergronden van leven en werken van de schilder/vervalser Han van Meegeren. Utrecht: Spectrum, 1979. The only scholarly biography of van Meegeren. An English-language summary is offered by Werness (1983).
  • Dolnick, Edward (2008). The forger's spell: a true story of Vermeer, Nazis, and the greatest art hoax of the twentieth century. New York: Harper. ISBN 978-0-06-082541-6.
  • Godley, John Raymond Lord Kilbracken (1967). Van Meegeren: A case history. London: Thomas Nelson and Sons, Ltd. 1967, New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. The standard English-language account, based on the author's literature research and conversations with van Meegeren's son and daughter.OCLC 173258
  • Guarnieri, Luigi (2004). La Doppia vita di Vermeer. Arnoldo Mondadori S.p.A., Milan. This "novel" ("romanzo") itself is a sort of forgery. As Henry Keazor in the German newspaper Frankfurter Rundschau could show in 2005 (see: "Gefälscht!", April 12, 2005, No. 84, Forum Humanwissenschaften, p. 16), Guarnieri has copied large parts of his book (sometime word by word) from Lord Kilbracken's 1967-biography. Since Guarnieri's brother Giovanni works as a translator, [see: "What are translators reading?". Translatorscafe.com. Archived from the original on 2016-01-02. Retrieved 2012-05-05.] Luigi easily could have had the English text translated into the Italian. Keazor shows that Guarnieri tried to cover his tracks by not referring to the book by Kilbracken – he only mentions (p. 212) his earlier and different book (Master Art Forger. The story of Han van Meegeren, New York 1951) which, however, was published under Kilbracken's civil name "John Godley".
  • Isheden, Per-Inge (2007). van Meegeren—konstförfalskarnas konung [van Meegeren—king of art forgeries]. Kvällsstunden: Hemmets och familjens veckotidning 69(38), 3, 23. (In Swedish, with side-by-side examples of originals and van Meegeren's forgeries.)
  • Kreuger, Frederik H. (2007). A New Vermeer: Life and Work of Han van Meegeren. Quantes Publishers, Rijswijk 2007. ISBN 978-90-5959-047-2
  • Lopez, Jonathan (2008). The Man Who Made Vermeers. New York: Harcourt. ISBN 978-0-15-101341-8.
  • Moiseiwitsch, Maurice (1964). The Van Meegeren mystery; a biographical study. London: A. Barker. OCLC 74000800
  • Werness, Hope B. (1983). Denis Dutton (ed.). "Han van Meegeren fecit" in The forger's art: forgery and the philosophy of art. Berkeley: University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-05619-1.
  • Wynne, Frank (2006). I was Vermeer: the rise and fall of the twentieth century's greatest forger. New York: Bloomsbury. ISBN 978-1-58234-593-2.

Novels about or inspired by Han van Meegeren

Films about or inspired by Han van Meegeren

Plays inspired by Han van Meegeren

  • Bruce J. Robinson (2007). Another Vermeer [Play]. Produced by the Abingdon Theatre Company of New York City
  • Ian Walker (playwright). Ghost in the Light [Play]. Produced by Second Wind Productions of San Francisco.
  • David Jon Wiener. "The Master Forger" [Play]. Produced by Octad-One Productions Lakeside, CA and The Tabard Theatre London, England.

External links[edit]