Posts Tagged ‘Vermeer forgery’

Looking again

April 6th, 2013

This side-by-side comparison of a fake Vermeer (right) and the detail of the Young Lady Seated at a Virginal (left) begs to be addressed. Notwithstanding that the latter has been accepted by important critics as an authentic work by Vermeer (it had languished in critical limbo for decades), many lay viewers find the Young Lady Seated at a Virginal a perplexing picture.

Had not a scientific committee established that the Young Lady Seated at a Virginal executed with materials and methods compatible with those used by Vermeer and some seventeenth-century Dutch painters, the work’s ideation might recall those of various twentieth-century Vermeer forgeries.

In these works, the forger reiterated a familiar Vermeer theme with a single figure surrounded by a few objects cherry picked from other pictures by the Delft master. In a sort of cat and mouse game, he occasionally flipped his copy-and-paste motifs left to right to make his plundering less evident. The final, uncomplicated whole was sprinkled with Vermeer’s mannerist touches which, however, fail to partake in the painting’s expressive fabric. No signature was added to the canvas knowing that it might raise more suspicion than approval. This reductionist strategy exploits the “simple” figure-against-blank-background motif of Vermeer’s authentic Lacemaker on a technically manageable scale contemporarily allowing the forger to evade direct competition with a genius on his favorite terrain: refined planimetric organization and the evocation of meaningful spatial depth.

The curious, naïve flavor—to post-Van Meegeren eyes at least—which characterizes these forgeries owes not to anything good in the forger’s heart but to the oversimplification to which he is constrained in order to mask his technical and organizational inadequacies. His malicious plan, then, was to cast a few tasty morsels of Vermeeresque bait and keep his bad cards as close to the vest as possible.

Do you think the Young Lady Seated at a Virginal is a Vermeer or or not, or just don’t know? Make your though known  on the poll on the sidebar to the right.

The Revenge of a Forger

April 26th, 2010

Van Meegeren’s Fake Vermeers
Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam
12 May – 22 August 2010

from the museum website:
The Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen presents Van Meegeren’s Fake Vermeers, an exhibition of the famous forgeries of Han van Meegeren. Van Meegeren craftily exploited art historians’ desire to discover early works by Johannes Vermeer. During a famous court case in which Van Meegeren was accused of Nazi collaboration, he admitted that he had forged old master paintings, including several Vermeers. Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen had acquired one of the fake Vermeer from Van Meegeren. The exhibition explores Van Meegeren’s technique, his masterpieces and his downfall.
Included are approximately ten forgeries by Van Meegeren  most in the style of Vermeer, although there are some forgeries of Frans Hals, Pieter de Hooch and Gerard ter Borch.

Van Meegeren’s life as a forger is further illuminated through a documentary film and objects from his studio.

Van Meegeren’s technique remains exceptional. For his masterpiece The Supper at Emmaus, Van Meegeren used a genuine seventeenth-century canvas and historical pigments. He bound the pigments with bakelite, which hardened when heated to produce a surface very similar to that of a seventeenth-century painting. This technique, combined with Van Meegeren’s choice of subject matter and composition, was an important factor in convincing so many people of the authenticity of his works. Van Meegeren created the missing link between Vermeer’s early and late works. The exhibition at Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen sheds new light on Van Meegeren’s technique, resulting from new technical research undertaken by the Rijksmuseum.

Van Meegeren conference at MFA

February 11th, 2009

Vermeer and Van Meegeren: The Real and the Faux
Jonathan Lopez, author of The Man Who Made Vermeers: Unvarnishing the Legend of Master Forger Han van Meegeren, and Ronni Baer, William and Ann Elfers Senior Curator European Paintings

Wed, Feb 25, 7 pm
Remis Auditorium

Dutch art forger Han van Meegeren became a folk hero at the end of World War II when he confessed to selling a fake Vermeer to Hermann Goering. Author Jonathan Lopez and curator Ronni Baer discuss the extravagantly sordid life of the world’s most notorious art forger and what he did to the image of the Vermeer we know and love.

Book signing follows.

MFA members, seniors and students $15: nonmembers/general admission $18.

Van Meegeren Lecture in Washington

December 18th, 2008

I would not miss the lecture or the book.

The Man Who Made Vermeers:
Unvarnishing the Legend of Master Forger Han van Meegeren

Sunday, January 11, 2009, 2:00 p.m.
East Building Concourse Auditorium, The National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

Jonathan Lopez discusses aspects of his recently published book, The Man Who Made Vermeers: Han van Meegeren’s Life in Forgery. Book signing to follow. Sunday Lectures at the National Gallery are free and open to the public on a first-come-first-serve basis.

BTW, The Man Who Made Vermeers is fifth of the 10 Amazon Best Books of 2008 in the Arts & Photography section. Well deserved.

Can this happen again?

November 21st, 2008

The Man Who Made Vermeers by Jonathan Lopez is the most penetrating and useful book written about the spectacular Han van Meegeren case of false Vermeers. Among its merits is an articulated answer to the crucial question skated by preceding studies: how could it have happened? In a nutshell here is the author’s answer: “a fake doesn’t necessarily succeed or fail according to the fidelity with which it replicates the distant past but on the basis of its power to sway the contemporary mind.”

This answer arouses a more insidious one: could it happen today? Let’s hear Jonathan’s take:

Well, I think anyone who says, “We could never be fooled again,” is probably a bit naive. Attractively packaged products of little inherent value continue to fool some of the smartest and most knowledgeable people in the world–for instance, the bond traders at Bear Stearns who were haplessly buying and selling bogus mortgage securities. But, that said, I think the possibility of anyone passing off a forged Vermeer today would be virtually nil. And I don’t think it’s just because of the advances that have been made in the scientific examination of pictures, although that’s part of it. The real problem is that you can only fool people if, on some level, they actively want to believe you. With the mortgage securities, for instance, Wall Street wanted to believe that risk could be managed through financial engineering–a kind of narcissism, if you think about it–but it all worked quite profitably for a while, and that made the whole scheme seem credible. In the 1920s and ‘30s, art experts still expected to find more Vermeers because it seemed only logical that such a skillful artist would have produced more works than the thirty-five that we know today. And since Vermeer had really only been rediscovered in the latter half of the 19th century, it seemed completely plausible that more of his paintings would eventually show up. In fact a couple did: The Girl with the Red Hat, for instance, was rediscovered in 1925. Today, there’s absolutely no expectation that any new Vermeers will turn up–and because there is no expectation, any fake would be greeted with intense skepticism. Van Meegeren operated in an entirely different atmosphere: he was making art historians’ dreams come true.

Bad Vermeers, great book

October 26th, 2008

In New York I recently met Jonathan Lopez whose The Man Who Made Vermeers has just been published. It is about the most colossal art forgery of all times: the fake Vermeer’s by Dutchman Han van Meegeren. Four years of intense research (Lopez is an artist himself and knows Dutch) and superlative writing skills gives new dimensions to a well-known story. Lopez reveals the master forger as an arch-opportunist, a cunning liar, and a fervent sympathizer of the fascist cause from as early as 1928. Deftly reconstructing an insidious network of illicit trade in the art market’s underworld, Lopez allows few reputations to emerge unscathed in this gripping incredibly readable book. Moreover, Lopez provides a plausable response to the question which all those who have taken up the case have tactfully avoided or inadequately addressed: how could the most renowned museum curators, art dealers and private collectors been taken by fakes which appear almost laughable today?

Even if you are like me and have until now turned a cold shoulder to the Van Meegeren story, the The Man Who Made Vermeers is a must-read. The L.A. Times book review says why.

Lopez will be speaking at the MET on November 14, 2008 , 6:00 pm. along with Walter Liedtke, curator of European painting at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Lopez will be lecturing in other places too.