Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen presented ‘Van Meegeren’s Fake Vermeers’, an exhibition of ten famous forgeries of Han van Meegeren. Most are in the style of Johannes Vermeer, but the works also includes forgeries of Frans Hals, Pieter de Hooch and Gerard ter Borch. The exhibition explored Van Meegeren’s technique, his masterpieces and his downfall.
Van Meegeren’s technique remains exceptional. For his masterpiece ‘The Supper at Emmaus’, Van Meegeren used a genuine seventeenth-century canvas and historical pigments. He bound the pigments with bakelite, which hardened when heated to produce a surface very similar to that of a seventeenth-century painting. This technique, combined with Van Meegeren’s choice of subject matter and composition, was an important factor in convincing so many people of the authenticity of his works.
At the end of the Second World War a painting from the Netherlands was found in the collection of the Nazi minister, Hermann Göring. The painting was traced back to Han van Meegeren, who was immediately arrested on suspicion of collaboration. Van Meegeren admitted to having sold the work, but also claimed to have made the painting himself. He had sold Göring a forgery. Van Meegeren’s confession became worldwide news and he was hailed as a hero as ‘the man who swindled Göring’. Meanwhile the art world was thrown into disarray.