I Was Vermeer : The Forger Who Swindled the Nazis, Paperback

I Was Vermeer : The Forger Who Swindled the Nazis Paperback

3.5 out of 5 (1 rating)


In 1945, a small-time Dutch art dealer was arrested for selling a forgery of a priceless national treasure - a painting by Vermeer - to Hitler's right-hand man.

The charge was treason, the only possible sentence death. And yet Han van Meegeren languished in his dank prison cell, incapable of uttering the words that would set him free: 'I am a forger.' This riveting account of greed, hubris, excess, treason and fine art is the story of a failed artist and the greatest forger of all time, who executed a swindle which earned him the equivalent of fifty million dollars and the acclaim of the very critics who had mocked him.




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Having already read Edward Dolnick's account of the Dutch WWII Vermeer forger Han van Meegeren called The Forger's Spell, I was pleasantly surprised to note that the two books complement each other well. Wynne's book is filled with famous one-liners such as "Of the 2,500 authentic works painted by Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot, 7,800 are in American collections alone". Museums and art collections have every interest not to reveal that their precious items are not originals. Thus, the longer the pedigree of a forgery the higher the chance it is accepted into the canon. The recent documentary about the authenticity of the newly discovered Leonardo da Vinci La Bella Principessa pointedly shows how much of such a decision rests in convincing a small number of insiders, turning a 22,000 USD painting by a German 19th century artist into a 100,000,000 USD masterwork (or not).One important finding is that the forgery has to match current taste. Thus, today, van Meegeren's works look hopelessly old-fashioned and completely unlike those of Vermeer. In his time, however, they were what the buyers expected and craved for (at least until van Meegeren got lazy). A quick fun read.