This week in an article by Martin Bailey, The Art Newspaper will reveal how a painting that supposedly was made by Hans van Meegeren, one of the most successful forgers of all time, is now believed to have been painted in the 17th century.
The work in question, The Procuress, has been housed at the Courtauld Institute in London since 1960 when it given as a donation from Professor Geoffrey Webb, a specialist in historic architecture. Webb had no illusions concerning its authorship; he believed that it was a forgery by Van Meegeren recovered after the War in Van Meegeren’s chalet in Nice. Scientific examination at the Courtauld confirms that the picture could date from the 17th-century since the canvas is old but more significantly, there is no evidence that any modern pigment was used.
Two other versions of The Procuress already are present in public museums. The first is owned by the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, which, however, lists it as a copy. Another emerged in 1949 from an English private collection and was auctioned at Christie’s before being bought by Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts. Scholars now believed this one to be the original by Dirck van Baburen.
This bit of news may be relevant to Vermeer studies since it is well known that Vermeer included just such a procuress motif in the background of two of his compositions, The Concert and the Lady Seated at the Virginals. Baburen’s Procuress, or a copy of the original, probably corresponds to one in the 1641 inventory of Vermeer’s mother-in-law, Maria Thins, described as “a painting wherein a procuress points to the hand.”