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Dec 11, 2014

In Search of the Authentic, II...

More to geek out on...


Van Meergen's Fake Vermeers | Runtime 12:37


Van Meergen was a minor Dutch art dealer who sold newly discovered Vermeers to the Nazis during World War II and he made millions doing so. Van Meergen was only caught after the war because Hermann Goering's hidden cache of stolen art was found and one of the paintings in it was traced back to Van Meergen. But ironically, the art Van Meergen had been selling to the Nazis were fakes he had painted himself and to get out of a long prison sentence for being a German sympathizer who'd profited from the war Van Meergen had to admit to being an art forger and produce another fake in court to prove it. 



Van Meergen painting the forgery that saved his bacon...

This meant that even after he was caught nobody believed the Vermeers Van Meergen had been selling were fake. Whaaaa?...

So, after the trial Van Meergen went from evil villain to national hero in the eyes of the Dutch public for having hoodwinked the Nazis during the Occupation.

What a story, yes?

However, what I can't figure out is how Van Meergen managed to convince anyone his Vermeers were authentic in the first place. Just look at them. My god, look at them! For me that's the bigger story. His fakes, literally painted using a homemade paint of pigment and bakelite™ enamel binder, and heat-set in his kitchen oven, were so terrible-horrible-bad manneristic smears of pastiche crap it seems impossible that they would have fooled anybody at the time. Nazi or not.

But hey, what do I know? What do you think?






There are forgeries – which despite being fake – that are still beautiful.  These, however, are not among them...

TJK

3 reader comments:

Allen Garns said...

This comment is a little late but I just came across your blog. (Nice work) I've wondered too, how these paintings could pass for real Vermeers. The only thing I have come up with is that they are indicative of the style of european figurative painting of Van Meergen's own period. We all are deeply and subliminally influenced by the conventions of the day. It's hard to see past them. It still doesn't explain it but it's the only thing I can think of.

Thomas Kitts said...

Allen, you are very insightful. I read a detailed biography of Van Meergen a few years back and your explanation is essentially the same as the author's. He used the analogy of a film director tries to produce a historical drama intended to be authentic in every way, with incredible effort going into the accurate costuming, hair styles, dialogue, locations, and even character motivation and development. But thirty years later, when our own culture has moved on, the inevitable little aesthetic slip ups become obvious the viewer because his or she is no longer blinded to the zeitgeist of the time. Instead, they are now blinded to the zeitgeist of the now... Ha!

I guess that means we are the product of our times, whether we wish it were so or not...

Thomas Kitts said...

Oh, and I forgot to mention, most forgeries are caught in this manner around 30 years after they have been created. It may be different now, with a shorter cycle, because the culture seems to be turning over more rapidly and we have forensic conservation science that didn't exist fifty years ago, making it harder for fakes to pass successfully.