So You Think You Can Fake A Vermeer?

Jonathon Keats guides us through the world of great art hoaxes.

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"The Supper at Emmaus"
Han van Meegeren (1889-1947) was considered one of the foremost art forgers of the 20th century. This picture, wrongfully attributed to the Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer, was created in 1936. Photo:Wikimedia Commons
Perhaps the most famous painting by Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer was "Girl with a Pearl Earring" (1665).
Wikimedia Commons
Evidence against Han van Meegeren: a collection of pigments.
Wikimedia Commons
So You Think You Can Fake A Vermeer?
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So You Think You Can Fake A Vermeer?
In the world of forgery, the notion that it takes a thief to catch a thief gets a little dicey.
 
Forgers tend to be incredibly skilled and talented artists. They pretty much have to be, right?
Many of them learn their craft in the backrooms of museums as restoration specialists and many of then have attempted to be successful artists in their own right. 
 
Ironically, the people entrusted with catching them often have much more problematic credentials and skill sets. For centuries, the whole business of authentication rested on the notion of connoisseurship, and the connoisseurs themselves often insisted that they "just knew" a certain thing. (I guess that's what a connoisseur is, come to think of it.)
 
In the last 100 years, there's been an effort to "scientificize" the process, but it's had mixed results. We'll talk about the world of forgeries today and ask: "Is the act of forgery itself a work of art?"
 
You can join the conversation. E-mail colin@wnpr.org or Tweet us @wnprcolin.

  

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E-mail from Eva

In the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art there is a highlighted, very large ceramic sculpture by Jeff Coons of Michael Jackson and his monkey. It is an exact replica, including the signature, of a souvenir bought by Coons in Italy in a gift shop which he had reproduced in a German ceramic factory a hundred times its original size. When I asked the docent why this was considered a masterpiece BY Coons she said his genius lied in choosing the work to be reproduced. Is this art or is it forgery on a grand scale?