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

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

Jonathan Lopez

Language: English

Pages: 352

ISBN: 0547247842

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


It's a story that made Dutch painter Han van Meegeren famous worldwide when it broke at the end of World War II: a lifetime of disappointment drove him to forge Vermeers, one of which he sold to Hermann Goering, making a mockery of the Nazis. And it's a story that's been believed ever since. Too bad it just isn't true.

Jonathan Lopez has done what no other writer could--tracking down primary sources in four countries and five languages to tell for the first time the real story of the world's most famous forger. Neither unappreciated artist nor antifascist hero, Van Meegeren emerges in The Man Who Made Vermeers as an ingenious, dyed-in-the-wool crook--a talented Mr. Ripley armed with a paintbrush, who worked virtually his entire adult life making and selling fake Old Masters. Drawing upon extensive interviews with descendents of Van Meegeren's partners in crime, Lopez also explores the networks of illicit commerce that operated across Europe between the wars. Not only was Van Meegeren a key player in that high-stakes game during the 1920s, landing fakes with powerful dealers and famous collectors such as Andrew Mellon (including two pseudo-Vermeers that Mellon donated to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.), but the forger and his associates later offered a case study in wartime opportunism as they cashed in on the Nazi occupation.

The Man Who Made Vermeers is a long-overdue unvarnishing of Van Meegeren's legend and a deliciously detailed story of deceit in the art world.

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89–96. ———. De Schilderkunst. The Hague: De Schouw [Uitgeverij van de Nederlandse Kultuurkamer-Departement Volksvoorlichting en Künsten], 1942. ———. "Vormen van het bovennatuurlijke en wonderbaarlijke in de kunst." De Cicerone 4–5 (1918): 126–133; 167–176. Boolen, J. J. and J. C. van der Does. Nederlands vijfjarig verset. Amsterdam: Verzetsgroep D. A.V. I. D., 1945. Borenius, Tancred. "At the Vermeer Gallery." Burlington Magazine LIV (1935): 298. ———. "Vermeer's Master." Burlington Magazine

with them—the evidence indicates that the true eminence grise behind Van Meegeren's early fake Vermeers was Theodore Ward, who provided the crucial link between Berlin's seamy culture of art world intrigue and Theo van Wijngaarden's Dutch fake factory. Why point the finger at Ward? To begin with, the frequent movements of Ward's employee, Harold Wright—from London, to Germany, to the Netherlands—dovetailed very conveniently with the needs of the forgery business, if not necessarily with the

present and seeking to relive a distant age—the recommendation was painfully à propos. The greater irony, however, and a poignant one, was that Van Meegeren, widely and correctly recognized as a bon vivant, also harbored a well-informed affection for the Bible. Although an astonishingly bad Catholic during his adult life, Van Meegeren had been steeped in an atmosphere of intense religiosity in his youth. His parents were deeply devout; his uncle was a priest; and his cousin was chairman of the

illumination shining down from apartment windows. The electricity and gas had been shut off throughout the Dutch capital for months. Having promised to lead occupied Holland into a glorious new era under his rule, Hitler had instead plunged it back into the age of the candle and the kerosene lantern. Even with the Germans now defeated, the power grid wouldn't be up and running again for weeks; gas service wouldn't return to normal until the winter. And of course there had been other, more serious

dossiers relating to it. Barbara Rathbone, the registrar of the Hyde Collection has also been unstintingly kind. Likewise, no account of my profound debt of gratitude to American museum people would be complete without mentioning several friends at the Philadelphia Museum of Art: curator Joseph Rishel, assistant curator Lloyd DeWitt, adjunct curator Carl Strehlke, and department secretary Jennifer Vanim, all of whom assisted in my research into the infamous art dealer Leo Nardus. Thanks also to

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