Now boys and girls, when I first wrote about Van Meegeren, I talked about what is one of his more famous forgeries, The Supper at Emmaus, which was sold to a rich industrialist from Rotterdam in 1937. But the story goes back much earlier than that.
You see, Van Meegeren was a career forger, it wasn’t mere vindictiveness that drove him on, it was business. His first known forgery is from 1923, a version of Hals’ Laughing Cavalier, which has its own great history that I hope to share with you someday. But Van Meegeren quickly moved on to forging Vermeers, and his first examples were even more wretched than his more famous endeavors.
Man and Woman at Spinet, Van Meegeren, c. 1932. (image courtesy of www.essentialvermeer.com)
Now, like most forgers, Van Meegeren started off doing either blatant copies of already existing works, or cobbling together a lot of identifiable motifs from the artist to make the forgery easily recognizable to an expert. Here Van Meegeren borrowed heavily from Vermeer’s canon:
1) the man standing in the corner is a direct quotation from Vermeer’s The Music Lesson
2) the floor tiles and painting on the wall are taken from The Concert
4) the girl is probably a reference to Maes or Metsu, or perhaps even De Hooch, for a little variety
5) Musical instruments are prevalent in many of Vermeer’s paintings, but in his amazing book False Impressions Hoving points out that the instruments are stunted and could not have been painted by a real connoisseur who understood their construction.
Unfortunately for him, our good friend Abraham Bredius took the fake Vermeer bait, and rushed an article into the prestigious The Burlington in the fall of 1932 so he could claim the discovery for himself. (some of my more faithful readers will remember how desperate he was to prove that Vermeer had an Italianate period and to discover the next Vermeer. Remember kids, if it’s too good to be true, it probably is.)
Van Meegeren went on to sell this painting, and then used the proceeds to settle in the South of France for a spell while he (literally) cooked up his next Vermeer. Only this time, he didn’t just paint another Vermeer. He decided to paint the Vermeer that would not only withstand aesthetic scrutiny, but scientific detection.
Happy March everybody!