Dec 20, 2013

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Sitting in his cell awaiting trial for treason, Van Meegeren considered his options. The year was 1945, and the war was over. Meegeren had been arrested in his Dutch homeland for being a Nazi collaborator. His crime, according to Dutch authorities, was trading a painting by Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer to the Nazi commander of the Luftwaffe, Hermann Goering. Collaborating with the enemy was a capital offense. If convicted, Meegeren would hang.

At his trial, Meegeren offered a novel defense: that he had, in fact, painted the Vermeer himself. It was a forgery. In return for his forgery, he acquired from Goering six genuine paintings by Dutch masters. Meegeren had conned Goering. Meegeren asserted that he was, therefore, a national hero and not a Nazi collaborator.

To prove his defense, Meegeren painted another Vermeer before the court while under police guard. Compared to Vermeer, Meegeren’s technique was clumsy; but with the aid of a new product called Bakelite, Meegeren produced a satisfactory forgery. He was convicted of forgery and exonerated of the treason charge. He was sentenced to a year in jail. Read More

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