The Art Forger Who outsmarted  Nazi Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring.

The Art Forger Who outsmarted Nazi Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring.

 History teaches us that the offended pride of a painter can change the fate of mankind.
One of such painters led Germany to II World War and wiped out a large part of human race from the face of the earth, as if he was cleaning varnish from the old painting.

A less drastic case was the man who forever changed the approach of scientists, art historians, connoisseurs of art and marchandies to the idea of ​​art counterfeiting.

His name is Han Van Meegeren.

- Han Van Meegeren was a man, who Abraham Bredius (who as one of the most authoritative art historians had dedicated a great part of his life to the study of Vermeer), called a man without ounce of talent.

- Han Van Meegeren was the man who spent the rest of his life on on a mission to prove that he could “not only copy the style of the Dutch masters in his paintings, but produce a work of art so magnificent that it would rival the works of master painters".

- Van Meegeren as a stubborn and methodical man, was preparing himself for the first forgery on the 'big scale' for nearly six years. He went to London to buy ingredients to produce original 17th-century paints. He bought old, worthless seventeenth century paintings to get the original canvas. He even remembered about the original nails, knowing that Abraham Bredius had discovered another scam just because of the use of modern nails to tie the canvas.

- In a rented villa on the French Riviera he had built, in the middle of the living room, a special furnace for burning paintings (yes! burning! ) to emulate the age of the paint. By using phenol formaldehyde resin, could create a mixture that perfectly imitated the texture and craquelure of oil paintings from the 17th century.
It was an ingenious system, perhaps the best ever devised by a forger and it produced incredibly convincing paintings.

Because of all these inventions, he was almost caught by police at the beginning of his forger's career.
When in the area where he rented the villas, in the middle of a hot summer, the girl of one of the reapers was missing. The police took the first steps to the villa that chimney was making thick, black smoke because at the same time van Meegeren was 'burning' his first 'Vermeer'.
Fortunately, the policemen did not find any clothes or burnt bones in the furnace, but only some old 'daubs' and left van Meegeren's house.

- Han Van Meegeren was a man who created finally fake paintings of Vermeer, about which the very same Abraham Bredius wrote, years later: "It is a wonderful moment in the life of a lover of art when he finds himself suddenly confronted with a hitherto unknown painting by a great master, untouched, on the original canvas, and without any restoration, just as it left the painter's studio. And what a picture! Neither the beautiful signature...".

- Han Van Meegeren was a man who cheated not only famous art historians or museums. He cheated Nazi Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring, selling him through art dealers as the original works of the 17th century Dutch masters.

- Han Van Meegeren was the man who after the war, accused of plundering for the Germans, was sentenced to death. In an odd twist, van Meegeren was given one last chance to prove his innocence: If he could produce a brilliant forgery before the eyes of court-appointed witnesses, he'd be spared... and he did it!

If you want to know more about this genius forger's wild life, about the crazy parties he organized in Paris, addictions, huge amount of money he could not hide anywhere so he started to bury it in the gardens of his 40 houses he had bought, about his wife, a real eastern princess, it is worth to read two books:

1. Life and work of Han van Meegeren by Frederik H. Kruger
2. Polish book: "Falszerz" napisana przez Przemyslawa Slowinskiego.

Below is a film from the series of Fake or Fortune programs telling us how many more "surprises" can be left by van Meegeren in the world: