This week the art world was rocked by the discovery of an authentic Van Gogh painting. Originally declared a fake, hidden away in shame in an attic for decades, tested again and declared a fake, it finally emerges, thanks to modern science, as an authentic work of the master Vincent Van Gogh. Art fraud in reverse!
The story usually goes the other way. Hailed as a masterpiece, a work of art is unmasked as a clever forgery, much to the embarrassment of the art world, museum curators and experts alike. My favorite such tale is the story of Han Van Meegeren, a forger of monumental proportions.
His story is something out of a Hollywood screenwriter’s guild. It covers the national stage and includes famous and infamous world figures. As I read the book, I had to keep reminding myself that it was a true story, it really was fantastic.
I love a good murder mystery but this type of romp was fascinating. Getting these fake Vermeer paintings past experts and into the hands of world-renowned collectors and museums was a bit of genius. While I am appalled at the crime, I have to admire the sheer ingenuity of the forger. And he psychologically played upon the greed and the arrogance of certain key individuals in this drama to make it work. Seemed to be a team effort!
So if you have some time and want an entertaining story with a true history attached, pick up a copy of “The Forger’s Spell” by Edward Dolnick. I have to thank Joe Miller of Cheap Joe’s Art Stuff for introducing me to this entirely entertaining tale.
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