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Saturday, February 4, 2012

thoughts on: The Forger's Spell

The Forger's Spell: A True Story of Vermeer, Nazis, and the Greatest Art Hoax of the Twentieth CenturyThe Forger's Spell: A True Story of Vermeer, Nazis, and the Greatest Art Hoax of the Twentieth Century by Edward Dolnick

Han van Meegeren was the 20th century's most successful forger, making millions selling fake Vermeers during the depression and WWII.  His buyers included Goering, which led to his eventual arrest.  In order to avoid being tried as a collaborator, he confessed to having forged what was then considered the greatest Vermeer ever found.

Dolnick investigates van Meegeren's story, revealing as much about the art world as he does about forgeries.  Van Meegeren's forgeries looked nothing like Vermeer's paintings.  It is painfully obvious now, but Dolnick shows why people accepted them as authentic - for both personal and artistic reasons.  Many of the chapters explored techniques involved in forging, both van Meegeren's and others, or delved into the personalities at the head of the art world, both collectors and experts.  Van Meegeren's forgeries worked, not because he was a gifted artist, but because he was an astute judge of character and a skilled technical craftsman (he invented his own paint from Bakelite!).  Fascinating. 

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