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Han van Meegeren (10 October 1889 in Deventermarker, Overijssel – 30 December 1947 in Amsterdammarker), born Henricus Antonius van Meegeren, was a Dutch painter and portraitist, and is considered to be one of the most ingenious art forgers of the 20th century.

As a child, van Meegeren developed an enthusiasm for the marvelous colours used by painters of the Dutch Golden Age, and later set out to become an artist himself. When art critics decried his work as tired and derivative, van Meegeren felt that they had destroyed his career. Thereupon, he decided to prove his talent to the critics by forging paintings of some of the world's most famous artists, including Frans Hals, Pieter de Hooch, Gerard ter Borch and Johannes Vermeer. He so well replicated the styles and colours of the artists that the best art critics and experts of the time regarded his paintings as genuine and sometimes exquisite. His most successful forgery was Supper at Emmaus, created in 1937 while living in the south of France. This painting was hailed by some of the world’s foremost art experts as the finest Vermeer they had ever seen.

During World War II, wealthy Dutchmen, wanting to prevent a sellout of Dutch art to Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party, avidly bought Van Meegeren's forgeries. Nevertheless, a falsified "Vermeer" ended up in the possession of Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring. Following the war, the forgery was discovered in Göring's possession, and Han van Meegeren was arrested 29 May 1945 as a collaborator, as the officials believed that he had sold Dutch cultural property to the Nazis. This would have been an act of treason, the punishment for which was death, and so Van Meegeren fearfully confessed to the forgery. On 12 November 1947, after a brief but highly publicized trial, van Meegeren was convicted of falsification and fraud charges, and was sentenced to a modest punishment of one year in prison. He never served his sentence, however; before he could be incarcerated, van Meegeren suffered a heart attack and died on 30 December 1947. It is estimated that van Meegeren duped buyers, including the government of the Netherlands, out of the equivalent of thirty million dollars in today's money.

Early years

Han (a diminutive version of Henri or Henricus) van Meegeren was born in 1889 as the third of five children of middle-class Roman Catholic parents in the provincial city town of Deventermarker. He was the son of Augusta Louisa Henrietta Camps and Hendrikus Johannes van Meegeren, a French and history teacher at the Kweekschool (training college for schoolmasters) in the city of Deventer.

Early on, Han felt neglected and misunderstood by his father, as the elder Van Meegeren strictly forbade his artistic development, and constantly derided him. He was often forced by his father to write a hundred times the phrase "I know nothing, I am nothing, I am capable of nothing." While attending the Higher Burger School, he met teacher and painter Bartus Korteling (1853 - 1930), who would become his mentor. Korteling had been inspired by Johannes Vermeer and showed the young Van Meegeren how Vermeer had manufactured and mixed his colours. Korteling had rejected the Impressionist movement and other modern trends, as decadent, degenerate art, and his strong personal influence probably later led van Meegeren to rebuff contemporary styles and paint exclusively in the style of the Dutch Golden Age.

Han van Meegeren designed this boat-house for his Rowing Club D.D.S. while studying architecture in Delft from 1907 to 1913.

Van Meegeren's father did not share his son’s love of art, and instead, encouraged Han to study architecture. In 1907, van Meegeren, compelled by his father's demands, left home to study at the Technische Hogeschoolmarker in Delftmarker (Delft Technical College), the hometown of Johannes Vermeer. Van Meegeren received drawing and painting lessons as well. During his studies, van Meegeren easily passed his preliminary examinations, but because he did not wish to become an architect, he never took the Ingenieurs (final) examination. He nevertheless proved to be an apt architect, and in fact designed the clubhouse for his rowing club DDS in Delft (see image). This building still exists and has been designated a protected monument.Kreuger, Frederik H. (2007) A New Vermeer, Life and Work of Han van Meegeren. Rijswijk, Holland: publishing house Quantes. page 22. ISBN 978-90-5959-047-2

In 1913, van Meegeren gave up his architecture studies and concentrated on drawing and painting at the art school in The Haguemarker. On 8 January 1913, he received the prestigious Gold Medal from the Technical University in Delft, for his Study of the Interior of the Church of Saint Lawrence (Laurenskerk) in Rotterdam. The award was given every five years to an art student who created the best work, and was accompanied by a gold medal.

On 18 April 1912, van Meegeren married a fellow art student, Anna de Voogt, who was expecting their first child. The couple went to live with Anna’s grandmother in Rijswijk. Their son Jacques Henri Emil was born on 26 August 1912 in Rijswijk, Jacques van Meegeren would also become a painter; he died on 26 October 1977 in Amsterdammarker.

Career as a legitimate painter

The Deer (or “Hertje”) is one of Han van Meegeren’s best-known original drawings.
In the summer of 1914, van Meegeren moved his family to Scheveningen. That year, he completed the diploma examination at the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague. The diploma would allow him to teach, and soon he took a position as the assistant to Professor Gips, the Professor of Drawing and Art History, for the small monthly salary of 75 guldens. In March 1915, his daughter Pauline (later called Inez) was born. To supplement his income, Han would sketch posters and paint pictures (generally Christmas cards, still-life, landscapes, and portraits) for the commercial art trade. Many of these paintings are quite valuable today.

Van Meegeren showed his first paintings publicly in The Hague, where they were exhibited from April to May 1917 at the Kunstzaal Pictura. In December 1919, he was accepted as a select member to the Haagse Kunstkring, an exclusive society of writers and painters, who met weekly on the premises of the Ridderzaalmarker. In his studio at The Hague, opposite the Royal Palace Huis ten Boschmarker, van Meegeren would paint the tame Roe Deer belonging to Princess Juliana. He made many sketches and drawings of the deer and in 1921, painted Hertje (The fawn), which became quite popular in the Netherlands. Van Meegeren undertook numerous journeys to Belgiummarker, France, Italy and England, and acquired a name for himself as a talented portraitist. He earned stately fees through commissions from English and American socialites who spent their winter vacations on the Côte d'Azurmarker. His clients were impressed by his understanding of the 17th century techniques of the Dutch masters. Throughout his life, van Meegeren would paint pictures to which he would sign his own signature, which differed greatly from the marks he used on his forgeries.

By all accounts, infidelity was responsible for the break up of van Meegeren’s marriage to Anna de Voogt; they were divorced on 19 July 1923. Anna left with the children and moved to Parismarker, where from time to time, Van Meegeren would visit his children. Van Meegeren now dedicated himself to portraiture and began producing forgeries to increase his income.

In 1928, he was remarried, in Woerdenmarker, to the raffish actress Johanna Theresia Oerlemans (also known under her stage name Jo van Walraven), with whom he had been living for the past three years. Jo had previously been married to art critic and journalist, Dr. C H. de Boer (Karel de Boer), and she brought their daughter, Viola, into the Van Meegeren household.

The forgeries

In the Netherlands, Han van Meegeren had become a well-known painter. Hertje (1921) and Straatzangers (1928) were particularly popular. His first legitimate copies were painted in 1923 – his Laughing Cavalier and Happy Smoker – both in the style of Frans Hals. By 1928, the similarity of van Meegeren’s paintings of those of the old masters began to draw the reproach of Dutch art critics, who were, at that time, more interested in the Cubist, Surrealist, and other movements. It was said that van Meegeren’s gift was in imitation and that, outside of copying other artists' work, his talent was limited. One critic wrote that he was "A gifted technician who has made a sort of composite facsimile of the Renaissance school, he has every virtue except originality." In response to these comments, van Meegeren published a series of aggressive articles in the monthly magazine De Kemphaan (“The Game Cock”). Between April 1928 and March 1930, and together with journalist Jan Ubink, he raged against the art community, and in the process, lost any sympathy with the critics.

Van Meegeren felt that his genius had been misjudged, and set out to prove to the art critics that he could not only copy the style of the Dutch masters in his paintings, but that he could produce a work of art so magnificent that it would rival the works of master painters. He moved with his second wife, Jo, to the South of France and began preparations for this ultimate forgery, which took him six years, from 1932 to 1937. In a series of early exercises, he forged works by Frans Hals, Pieter de Hooch, Gerard ter Borch, and Johannes Vermeer. In the end, he chose to forge a painting by Vermeer as his masterpiece. Vermeer had not been particularly well-known until the beginning of the twentieth century; his works were both scarce—only about 35 of his works had survived—and extremely valuable.

Van Meegeren delved into the biographies of the old masters, studying their lives, their occupations, their trademark techniques and their catalogues. In October 1932, Dr. Abraham Bredius published an article about a recently discovered Vermeer which he described as a painting of a Man and Woman at a Spinet. The painting was later sold to Amsterdam banker Dr. Fritz Mannheimer.

Inventing the "perfect forgery"

In 1932, Van Meegeren moved to the village of Roquebrune-Cap-Martinmarker with his wife. There he rented a furnished mansion called “Primavera” and set out to define the chemical and technical procedures which would be necessary to create his perfect forgeries. Van Meegeren bought authentic 17th century canvas to paint on and mixed his own paints from raw materials (such as lapis lazuli, white lead, indigo, and cinnabar) using old formulas to ensure that they were authentic. In addition, he used badger-hair paintbrushes, similar to those Vermeer was known to have used. He came up with a scheme of using phenol formaldehyde to cause the paints to harden after application, making the paintings appear as if they were 300 years old. After completing a painting, Van Meegeren would bake it at to to harden the paint, and then roll it over a cylinder to increase the cracks. Later, he would wash the painting in black India ink to fill in the cracks.

It took van Meegeren six years to work out his techniques, and when he was done, he was pleased with his work, on both an artistic and deceptive level. Two of these trial paintings were “Vermeers”: Lady Reading Music, after Vermeer’s Woman in Blue Reading a Letter at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, and Lady Playing Music, after Vermeer’s Woman with a Lute near a window hanging in the Metropolitan Museum of Artmarker in New York Citymarker. Van Meegeren did not sell these paintings; both are now at the Rijksmuseum.

Following a journey to the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlinmarker, van Meegeren painted The Supper at Emmaus, using the ultramarine blues and yellows preferred by Johannes Vermeer and other Dutch Golden Age painters. After learning that the experts assumed Vermeer had studied in Italy, Van Meegeren used The Supper at Emmaus by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, located at Italy’s Pinacoteca di Breramarker, as a model for his next work. He had always wanted to walk in the steps of the masters, and he felt that his forgery was a fine work in its own right. Van Meegeren gave the work to his friend, the attorney C. A. Boon, telling him it was a genuine Vermeer, and asked him to show it to the famous art connoisseur and Vermeer expert, Dr. Abraham Bredius, who was living nearby in Monacomarker. Bredius examined the forgery in September 1937, and despite some initial doubts, he accepted it as a genuine Vermeer and praised it highly.

The painting was purchased by The Rembrandt Society for 520,000 guilders ($300,000 or about $4 million today.) with the aid of a wealthy shipowner Willem van der Vorm and donated to the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningenmarker in Rotterdammarker. In 1938, the piece was highlighted in a special exhibition at the Rotterdam museum along with 450 Dutch masterpieces dating from 1400-1800. In the "Magazine for [the] History of Art", A. Feulner wrote that "In the rather isolated area, in which the Vermeer picture hung, it was as quiet as in a chapel. The feeling of the consecration overflows on the visitors, although the picture has no ties to ritual or church."

In the summer of 1938, van Meegeren moved to Nicemarker. Using the proceeds from the sale of The Supper at Emmaus, he bought a 12 bedroom estate at Les Arènes de Cimiezmarker. On the walls of the estate hung several genuine Old Masters. Two of van Meegeren’s better forgeries were made here, Interior with Cardplayers and Interior with Drinkers, both displaying the signature of Pieter de Hooch. During his time in Nice, Van Meegeren painted his Last Supper I in the style of Vermeer.

In September 1939, as the Second World War threatened, he returned to the Netherlands. He remained at a hotel in Amsterdam for several months and in 1940 moved to the village of Larenmarker. Throughout 1941, van Meegeren issued his designs, which he published in 1942 as Han van Meegeren: Teekeningen I (Drawings nr I) a large and luxurious book. During this time, Van Meegeren created several forgeries, including The Head of Christ, The Last Supper II, The Blessing of Jacob, The Adulteress and The Washing of the Feet, all in the manner of Vermeer. On 18 December 1943, he divorced his wife, but this was only a formality; the couple remained together, but a large share of his capital was transferred to her accounts as a safeguard against the uncertainties of the war.

In December 1943, the van Meegerens moved to Amsterdam, where they took up residence in the exclusive Keizersgracht 321. His forgeries had earned him between 5.5 to 7.5 million guilders (or about $25–30 million today). He used this money to purchase a large amount of real estate, jewelry and works of art, and to further his luxurious lifestyle. In a 1946 interview, he told Marie Louise Doudart de la Grée that he owned 52 houses and 15 country houses around Laren, among them grachtenhuizen, beautiful mansions along the famous Amsterdam canals.

The forger fools Hermann Göring

During the German occupation of the Netherlands, one of van Meegeren’s agents sold a Vermeer forgery, Christ with the Adulteress, to Nazi banker and art dealer Alois Miedl in 1942. Experts could probably have identified it as a forgery; as van Meegeren's health declined, so did the quality of work. He chain-smoked, drank heavily and became addicted to morphine-laced sleeping pills. Fortunately for van Meegeren, there were no genuine Vermeers available for comparison, since most museum collections were in protective storage as a prevention against war damage. Miedl later sold it to Reichsmarshall Hermann Göring for 1.65 million guilders ($625,000 or $7 million today.)

Göring showcased the Vermeer forgery at his residence in Carinhallmarker (about 65 kilometers north of Berlinmarker). On 25 August 1943, Göring hid his collection of looted artwork, including Christ with the Adulteress, in an Austrianmarker salt mine, along with 6,750 other pieces of artwork looted by the Nazis. On 17 May 1945, Allied forces entered the salt mine, where Captain Harry Anderson discovered the previously unknown "Vermeer".

In May 1945, the Allied forces questioned banker and art dealer Alois Miedl regarding the newly discovered Vermeer. Based on Miedl's confession, the painting was traced back to van Meegeren. On 29 May 1945, he was arrested and charged with fraud and aiding and abetting the enemy. He was remanded to Weteringschans prison. As an alleged Nazi collaborator and plunderer of Dutch cultural property the authorities threatened Van Meegeren with extensive prison time. Faced with these bleak choices, and after spending three days in jail, he confessed to forging paintings attributed to Vermeer and Pieter de Hooch. He exclaimed, "The painting in Göring’s hands is not, as you assume, a Vermeer of Delft, but a Van Meegeren! I painted the picture!". It took some time to verify this and for several months van Meegeren was detained in the Headquarters of the Military Command at Herengracht 468 in Amsterdam. Between July and about November/December 1945, and in the presence of reporters and court-appointed witnesses, he painted his last forgery, Jesus among the Doctors, also called Young Christ in the Temple. After the trial painting was finished he was transferred to the fortress-prison Blauwkapel. Van Meegeren was released from prison in January or February 1946.

Trial, sentence and death

The trial of Han van Meegeren began on 29 October 1947 in Room 4 of the Regional Court in Amsterdam. The collaboration charges had been dropped, since the expert panel had found that the "Vermeer" sold to Hermann Göring had been a forgery and was, therefore, not the cultural property of the Netherlands. The public prosecutor, H. A. Wassenbergh, brought charges of forgery and fraud and demanded a sentence of two years in prison.

The court commissioned an international group of experts to address the authenticity of Van Meegeren's paintings. The commission included curators, professors and doctors from the Netherlands, Belgiummarker, and England and was led by the director of the chemical laboratory at the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgiummarker, Dr. Paul Coremans. The commission examined the eight Vermeer and Frans Hals paintings which van Meegeren had designated as forgeries. With the help of the commission, Dr. Coremans was able to determine the chemical composition of Han van Meegeren’s paints. He found that van Meegeren had prepared the paints by mixing them with the plastic bonding agent Albertol, a phenolformaldehyde resin. A bottle with exactly that ingredient had been found in van Meegeren's studio. This chemical component was introduced and manufactured in the 20th century, proving that the “Vermeers” and “Frans Halses” examined by the commission were not painted in the 17th century by the Dutch masters, but were in fact made by van Meegeren. The commission's other findings suggested that the dust in the craquelure was too homogeneous to be of natural origin. The matter found in the craquelure appeared to come from India ink, that had even gathered in areas that natural dirt or dust would never have reached. The paint had become so hard that not only alcohol but also strong acids and bases did not attack the surface, a clear indication that the surface had not been formed in a natural manner. The craquelure on the surface did not always tally with the craquelure in the ground layer, which with a natural craquelure would certainly have been the case. Thus, the test results obtained by the commission appeared to confirm that the works were forgeries created by van Meegeren, but their authenticity would continue to be debated by some of the experts until 1967 and 1977, when new investigative techniques were used to analyze the paintings (see below).

On 12 November 1947, the Fourth Chamber of the Amsterdam Regional Court found Han van Meegeren guilty of forgery and fraud, and he was sentenced to a minimal one year in prison On 26 November 1947, the last day to appeal the ruling, van Meegeren suffered a heart attack and was rushed to the Valeriuskliniek hospital in Amsterdam.. While at the hospital, Van Meegeren suffered a second heart attack on 29 December. He was pronounced dead at 5:00 pm on 30 December 1947, at the age of 58. His family and several hundred of his friends attended his funeral at the Driehuis Westerveld Crematorium chapel. In 1948, his urn was buried in the general cemetery in the village of Diepenveenmarker (municipality of Deventer).


Han van Meegeren’s Mansion Primavera in Roquebrune Cap Martin.
It was here, in 1936, that van Meegeren painted his forgery The Supper at Emmaus, which later sold for about $300,000.

After his death, the court ruled that van Meegeren’s estate be auctioned and the proceeds from his property and the sale of his counterfeits be used to refund the buyers of his works and to pay income taxes on the sale of his paintings. In December 1945, van Meegeren had filed for bankruptcy. On 5 and 6 September 1950, the furniture and other possessions in his Amsterdam house at Keizersgracht 321 were auctioned by order of the court, along with 738 other pieces of furniture and works of art, including numerous paintings by old and new masters from his private collection. The house was auctioned separately on 4 September. Together with the house, estimated to be worth 65,000 guilders, the proceeds of the sale amounted to 123,000 guilders. Van Meegeren’s unsigned The Last Supper I was bought for 2,300 guilders, while Jesus among the Doctors (which Van Meegeren had painted while in detention) sold for 3,000 guilders (about $800 or about $7,000 today.) Today the painting hangs in a Johannesburgmarker church. The sale of van Meegeren's entire estate amounted to 242,000 guilders ($60,000, or about $0.5 million today).

Throughout his trial and bankruptcy, van Meegeren maintained that his second wife, Jo, had nothing to do with the creation and sale of his forgeries. A large part of his considerable wealth had been transferred to her when they were divorced during the war, and the money would have been confiscated, if she had been ruled to be an accomplice. To all authors, journalists and biographers Van Meegeren told the same story: "Jo didn’t know", and apparently most believed him. Some biographers believe, however, that Jo must have known the truth. Her involvement was never proven, and she was able to keep her substantial capital. Jo outlived her husband by many years, always in great luxury, until her death at the age of 91.

M. Jean Decoen's objection

M. Jean Decoen, a Brussels art expert and restorer, stated in his 1951 book that he believed two of van Meegeren's paintings, The Supper at Emmaus and The Last Supper II, to be genuine Vermeers. Decoen went on to state that conclusions of Dr. Paul Coreman’s panel of experts were wrong and that the paintings should again be examined.

The buyer of The Last Supper II, Interior with Drinkers, and The Head of Christ, Daniel George van Beuningen, demanded that Dr. Paul Coremans publicly admit that he had erred in his analysis. When Coremans refused, Van Beuningen sued him, alleging that Coremans’ wrongful branding of The Last Supper II diminished the value of his “Vermeer” and asking for compensation of £500,000 (about $1.3 million or about $10 million today).) The trial was set for 2 June 1955, but was delayed owing to van Beuningen's death on 29 May 1955. Approximately seven months later, the court heard the case on behalf of van Beuningen's heirs. The court found in favour of Coremans, and the findings of his commission were upheld.

Further investigations

In 1967, the Artists Material Center at Carnegie Mellon Universitymarker in Pittsburghmarker examined several of the “Vermeers” in their collection. Under the direction of Dr. Robert Feller and Dr. Bernard Keisch, the examination confirmed that several of their paintings were, in fact, created using materials invented in the 20th century. They concluded that the “Vermeers” in their possession were modern and could thus be van Meegeren forgeries. This confirmed the findings of the 1946 Coremans commission, and refuted the claims made by M. Jean Decoen. The test results, obtained by the Carnegie Mellon team are summarized below.

Han van Meegeren knew that white lead was used during Vermeer’s time, but of course Van Meegeren had to obtain his stocks through the modern colour trade, which had changed significantly since the 17th century. During Vermeer’s time, Dutch lead was mined from deposits located in the Low Countries; however, by the 19th century, most lead was imported from Australia and the Americas. Thus, modern white lead differs greatly from the white lead Vermeer would have used, both in the isotope composition of the lead and in the content of trace elements found in the ores. Dutch white lead was extracted from ores containing high levels of trace elements of silver and antimony. On the other hand, the modern white lead used by Han van Meegeren contained neither silver nor antimony, as those elements are now separated from the lead during the modern smelting process.

Forgeries in which modern lead or white lead pigment has been used can be recognized by using a technique called Pb(Lead)-210-Dating. Pb-210 is a naturally occurring radioactive element that is part of the Uranium-238 Radioactive decay series, and has a half life of 22.3 years. To determine the amount of Pb-210, the alpha radiation emitted by another element, Polonium-210 (Po-210), is measured. Thus it is possible to estimate the age of a painting, within a few years' span, by extrapolating the Pb-210 content present in the paint used to create the painting.

The white lead in the painting The Supper at Emmaus had Polonium-210 values of 8.5 +/- 1.4 and Radium-226 (part of the Uranium-238 Radioactive decay series) values of 0.8 +/- 0.3. In contrast, the white lead found in Dutch paintings from 1600-1660 had Polonium-210 values of 0.23 +/- 0.27 and Radium-226 values of 0.40+/- 0.47.

In 1977, another investigation was undertaken by the States forensic labs of the Netherlands, using up-to-date techniques like gas chromatography, to formally confirm the origin of six van Meegeren forgeries, including the Emmaus and the Last Supper that were rumored to be genuine Vermeers. The conclusions of the 1946 commission were again reaffirmed and upheld by the Dutch judiciary system. No further investigations have occurred.


Van Meegeren played different roles, some of which were shrouded in fraudulent intentions, as he sought to fulfill his goal of besting his critics. Early on Han’s father may have foreseen his path, as his father once told him, "You are a cheat and always will be." On the other hand, his brothers and sisters perceived him as loyal, generous and affectionate, and he was always loving and helpful to his own children. The question “what was his character” cannot be answered unequivocally. Indeed, recent works question many of the existing assumptions about van Meegeren and the motivations for his career in forgery. With Han van Meegeren, everything was double-edged and his character presents itself as fragments rather than unity.

After van Meegeren was released, he continued to paint, signing his works with his own name. His new-found popularity ensured quick sale of his new paintings, often selling at prices that were many times higher than before he had been unmasked as a forger. Van Meegeren also told the news media that "he had an offer from a Manhattan gallery to come to the U.S. and paint portraits "in the 17th century manner" at $6,000 a throw."

A Dutch opinion poll conducted in October 1947 placed Han van Meegeren’s popularity second in the nation, behind only the Prime Minister's. The Dutch people viewed van Meegeren as a cunning trickster, who had successfully fooled the Dutch art experts, and more importantly, Hermann Göring himself. In fact, according to a contemporary account, when Göring was informed that his “Vermeer” was actually a forgery, "[Göring] looked as if for the first time he had discovered there was evil in the world". Han van Meegeren remains one of the most ingenious art counterfeiters of the 20th century. After his trial, however, he declared, "My triumph as a counterfeiter was my defeat as [a] creative artist."

List of forgeries

Known forgeries

A collection of genuine and fake signatures that Han van Meegeren used for his own works.

List of known forgeries by Han van Meegeren:

  • A counterpart to The Laughing Cavalier after Frans Hals (1923) once the subject of a scandal in The Hague in 1923, its present whereabouts are unknown.
  • The Happy Smoker after Frans Hals (1923) hangs in the Groninger Museummarker in the Netherlands
  • Man and Woman at a Spinet 1932 (sold to Amsterdam banker, Dr. Fritz Mannheimer)
  • Lady Reading Music 1935 - 1936 (unsold, on display at the Rijksmuseum.)
  • Lady Playing Music 1935 - 1936 (unsold, on display at the Rijksmuseum.)
  • Portrait of a Man 1935 - 1936 in the style of Gerard ter Borch (unsold, on display at the Rijksmuseum.)
  • Woman Drinking 1935 - 1936 (unsold, on display at the Rijksmuseum.)
  • The Supper at Emmaus, 1936 - 1937 (sold to the Boymans for 520,000 - 550,000 guldens, about $300,000 or $4 Million today)
  • Interior with Drinkers 1937 - 1938 (sold to D G. van Beuningen for 219,000 - 220,000 guldens about $120,000 or $1.6 Million today)
  • The Last Supper I, 1938 - 1939
  • Interior with Cardplayers 1938 - 1939 (sold to W. van der Vorm for 219,000 - 220,000 guldens $120,000 or $1.6 Million today)
  • The Head of Christ, 1940 - 1941 (sold to D G. van Beuningen for 400,000 - 475,000 guldens about $225,000 or $3.25 Million today)
  • The Last Supper II, 1940 - 1942 (sold to D G. van Beuningen for 1,600,000 guldens about $600,000 or $7 Million today)
  • The Blessing of Jacob 1941 - 1942 (sold to W. van der Vorm for 1,270,000 guldens about $500,000 or $5.75 Million today)
  • Christ with the Adulteress 1941 - 1942 (sold to Hermann Göring for 1,650,000 guldens about $624,000 or $6.75 Million today)
  • The Washing of the Feet 1941 - 1943 (sold to the Netherlands state for 1,250,000 – 1,300,000 guldens about $500,000 or $5.3 Million today, on display at the Rijksmuseum.)
  • Jesus among the Doctors- September 1945 (sold at auction for 3,000 guldens, about $800 or $7,000 today)

Posthumously, van Meegeren's forgeries have been shown in exhibitions around the world, including exhibitions in Amsterdam (1952), Baselmarker (1953), Zurich (1953), Haarlemmarker in the Kunsthandlung de Boer (1958), Londonmarker (1961), Rotterdammarker (1971), Minneapolismarker (1973), Essenmarker (1976-1977), Berlinmarker (1977), Slot Zeist (1985), New Yorkmarker (1987), Berkeley, CAmarker (1990), Munichmarker (1991), Rotterdam (1996), The Hague (1996) and more recently at the Haagse Kunstkring, The Hague (2004) and Stockholmmarker (2004), and have thus been made broadly accessible to the public.

Potential forgeries

It is possible that other fakes hang in art collections all over the world, probably in the style of 17th-century Dutch masters, including works in the style of Frans Hals and the school of Frans Hals, Pieter de Hooch, and Gerard ter Borch. In interviews with journalists, regarding discussions with his father Jacques van Meegeren suggested his father had created a number of other forgeries. Some of these paintings include:

  • Boy with a Little Dog and The Rommelpotspeler after Frans Hals. The Frans Hals catalogue by Frans L. M. Dony mentions four paintings by this name attributed to Frans Hals or the "school of Frans Hals", one of these could easily be by Van Meegeren.
  • A counterpart to Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring. A painting called Smiling Girl hangs in the National Gallery of Artmarker in Washington, D.C. (bequest Andrew W. Mellon) that could fit with Jacques’ description and has been recognized by the museum as a fake. It was attributed to Theo van Wijngaarden, friend and partner of Van Meegeren, but may have been painted by Van Meegeren.
  • Lady with a Blue Hat after Vermeer which was sold to Baron Heinrich Thyssen in 1930. Its present whereabouts are unknown.

Original artwork

Van Meegeren was a prolific artist, and produced thousands of original paintings in a number of diverse styles. This wide range in painting and drawing styles often irritated art critics. Some of his typical works are classical still lifes in convincing 17th century manner, Impressionistic paintings of people frolicking on lakes or beaches, jocular drawings where the subject is drawn with rather odd features, Surrealistic paintings with combined fore- and backgrounds. Van Meegeren's portraits, however, are probably his finest works.

Among his original works is his famous Deer, pictured above. Other works include his prize-winning St. Laurens Cathedral; a Portrait of the actress Jo Oerlemans (his second wife) ; his Night Club from the Roaring Twenties; the cheerful watercolor A Summer Day on the Beach and many others.

The forger forged

Van Meegeren’s own work rose in price after he had became famous and it consequently became worth-while to fake his paintings as well. Existing paintings obtained a signature “H. van Meegeren”, or new pictures were made in a Van Meegeren style and falsely signed. When Van Meegeren saw a fake like that, he ironically remarked that he would have adopted them if they had been good enough, but regrettably he had not yet seen one.

Later on, however, his son Jacques van Meegeren started to fake his father’s work. He made paintings in his father’s style – although of much lower quality – and was able to place a perfect signature on these imitations. Many fakes – both by Jacques and by others – are still on the market. They can be recognized by their low pictorial quality, but are not always regarded as such. As a result they have given a bad name to Van Meegeren’s oeuvre, see the article about Jacques van Meegeren, section “Fake van Meegerens”.

Notes and references

Further reading

Han van Meegeren biographies
  • Baesjou, Jan (1956). The Vermeer forgeries: The story of Han van Meegeren. G. Bles. A biography/novel based on the author's conversations with Van Meegeren's second wife.
  • Moisewitsch, Maurice (1961). The Van Meegeren mystery. London: A&C Black. A biography/novel.
  • Godley, John Raymond Lord Kilbracken (1967). Van Meegeren: A case history. London: Thomas Nelson and Sons, Ltd. 1967, New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. The standard English-language account, based on the author's literature research and conversations with Van Meegeren's son and daughter.
  • Brandhof, Marijke van den (1979): Een vroege Vermeer uit 1937: Achtergronden van leven en werken van de schilder/vervalser Han van Meegeren. Utrecht: Spectrum, 1979. The only scholarly biography of Van Meegeren. An English-language summary is offered by Werness (1983).
  • Werness, Hope B.(1983). "Han van Meegeren fecit". The forger’s art: Forgery and the philosophy of art. ed. Denis Dutton. Berkeley: University of California Press.
  • Guarnieri, Luigi (2004) La doppia vita di Vermeer. Mondadori Mailand. ISBN 3-88897-381-3
  • Wynne, Frank (2006). I was Vermeer: the rise and fall of the twentieth century's greatest forger. New York: Bloomsbury. ISBN 978-1-58234-593-2.
  • Kreuger, Frederik H. (2007). A New Vermeer: Life and Work of Han van Meegeren. Quantes Publishers, Rijswijk 2007. ISBN 978-90-5959-047-2
  • Lopez, Jonathan (2008). The Man Who Made Vermeers: Unvarnishing the Legend of Master Forger Han Van Meegeren. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. ISBN 978-0-15101-341-8.
  • Isheden, Per-Inge. (2007, September 21). van Meegeren—konstförfalskarnas konung [van Meegeren—king of art forgeries]. Kvällsstunden: Hemmets och familjens veckotidning 69(38), 3, 23. (In Swedish, with side-by-side examples of originals and van Meegeren's forgeries.)

Novels about or inspired by Han van Meegeren

Films about or inspired by Han van Meegeren

Plays inspired by Han van Meegeren
  • Bruce J. Robinson(2007). Another Vermeer [Play]. Produced by the Abingdon Theatre Company of New York City
  • Ian Walker . Ghost in the Light [Play]. Produced by Second Wind Productions of San Francisco.

External links

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