The ‘new’ Van Gogh: Fake vs real


It turns out that the painting of a windmill Le Blute-fin in Montmartre is a bona fide Van Gogh — one of only five ‘new’ paintings attribruted to the master since 1970. For decades, the painting has been in storage at the Museum de Fundatie in Zwolle. The reason why it took so long to verify this painting is that it once belonged to the collector Dirk Hannema (1895-1984), a man famous for buying De Emmausgangers for Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam. Hannema thought he was dealing with a true Vermeer, but actually it was a true  Van Meegeren…

In 1947, Hans van Meegeren died in Amsterdam. He had just been sentenced to a year in jail for forging Vermeer paintings. Under the original charge of collaboration, this sentence would have been death. His downfall began during World War II when the stagnant art market was being revitalised by the German special units commissioned by Goring to buy, trade and/or plunder as many of Europe’s art treasures as possible. After the war when Goring’s prized booty was unearthed in an Austrian salt mine, the Allieds found a Vermeer entitled Christ with the Adulteress. Investigation led to Meegeren, a renowned art dealer. After his arrest, he proved in court that he himself had painted it and should therefore be treated like a hero for scamming Nazi scum. Goring apparently cried the salted tears of a knee-scuffed child when he heard about it while on trial in Nuremberg. This story spread and Hollywood began planning a film version of this remarkable story.

emmausgangersVan Meegeren had actually pulled the same scam many times before the war. Ironically, one of the 200 paintings he received from Goring for Christ with Adulteress was one of his earlier Vermeer forgeries. He also sold another early ‘Vermeer’, De Emmausgangers,  to a Rotterdam museum via Dirk Hannema for millions. But it wasn’t just pure artistry that made Van Meegeren rich. When looked at today, the faces he painted look less 17th Century and more like Valentino and Garbo (since he recruited his models by ripping them out of movie mags). His success seemed to be mostly derived from an obsessive desire for revenge.

Back in the ‘20s, Meegeren’s own original efforts — of cuddly fawns and such — was dissed by many critics, one of whom happened to be the country’s Vermeer authority who had devised a whole theory around the artist’s ‘missing ten years’. So Meegeren chose themes and a style that echoed these speculations. It was bait and then checkmate as the ‘authority’ happily authenticated his ‘proofs’. With money rolling in throughout the ‘30s to feed his alcohol and morphine habit, Meegeren kept this smug secret private while exacting a more public revenge on his other detractors by publishing articles that explained their ‘lack of taste’ in terms of their racial inferiority.

Hollywood continues to struggle with the screenplay.    And now with the proof that Hannema could also recognise a non-fake painting, the story has just got that much more richer…

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Posted in Uncategorized 14 years, 3 months ago at 11:04 am.

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  1. philip silbernberg Nov 28th 2011

    another obvious conclusion is that mr,van tilborgh needed almost 20 years to regonize the authenticity of the painting, which is a prove of my thesis that teh vincentvangoghexpertise is in the hands of a bunch of silly and spoiled lazy statefunctionaries, appointed by the dutch state as “expert”., but in the reality blind and closed in an ivory tower.
    The real living artmarket gives us still enough new van goghs but they are not detected by the museum.Thats why they only discovered 5 paintings of Vincent!
    They lost connection with the new and the unknown and act irrational and unscientific.Its a shame and a sign that we live in Brave New World and the Van gogh Museum as Big Brother!
    Falsifiing the history of the distribution of the works of vincent van gogh in the dutch period and declearing the living artmarket dead.
    The blinf declare the living artmarket of works of vincent van gogh as dead!!!
    Because they are blind we have to believe the nonsense of their oneliners,called expertises in the negative sense.

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