Hello friends! If you are bored from this quarantine and are looking to refresh your mind, then this story is for you: Guilt for Innocence- A Tale which toiled the Nazis
Once upon a time, there was an art forger who made enormous money by counterfeiting paintings. No one could outwit him on his forgery skill, so the man decided to outwit himself!
By proving before everyone that he has committed the fraud!
Meet Mr. Han van Meegeren. He was a very hard-working artist, whose original paintings had his sweat but not his seat. No one liked his original work. His career was at stake.
Naturally, he became frustrated. Out of his frustration, came anger, and from anger came his skill-
The Skill to Forge Paintings to outshine his detractors. His target was the 17th Century Baroque painter Johannes Vermeer and his artwork set in brilliant domestic scenes.
Years in Solitude
Our hero Meegeren, in his quest to forge, spent six years in solitude, copying and perfecting his art as Vermeer. He mixed his own paints after researching the raw materials and pigments available in Vermeer’s time.
He conducted researches on Vermeer and found out that the Baroque painter had an early period of religious painting influenced by the Italian painter, Caravaggio. And the person who strongly endorsed this theory was none other than Abraham Bredius, the leading authority on Vermeer.
And from this clue, Meegeren found a key to set forth his life in the concoction.
‘When the Fake is Real, and the Real is Fake’
No one has ever found the early paintings of Vermeer which had an Italian influence. But Abraham blindly believed in this theory. So, it was time for Meegeren to bring the story to life!
The first forged painting was done! “The Supper at Emmaus”.
The ‘masterpiece’ of Vermeer’s oeuvre was full of inconsistencies. It was not at all fit into the standards of the great Baroque painter. And this is where it touched the heart of Abraham-
He declared the painting to be the early work of Vermeer, produced before the artist had come into his own.
The fake masterpiece got the stamp of approval from the art world. It was sold for a whopping $4 Million, in today’s worth.
With the first fake being sold, Meegeren forged and sold more works through various art dealers. All were fake, all we’re forged but the riches they brought were real for Meegeren.
The stage was set for World War II to come in!
The Nazi Twist
When the Nazis occupied Holland during World War II, Herman Göring was leading the German troops as Hitler’s top generals. He sought to add a piece of Vermeer in his collection of looted art work.
And who can be a better supplier of looted work than our hero Meegeren?
Meegeren readily obliged and sold him a treasured piece from early Vermeer painting titled, ‘Christ with Adulteress’. Herman accepted the art as a national treasure and Meegeren sold the art as a forged maker, as always.
But soon Meegeren had to pay the price for his sold art. For the first time. And who knew, for his last breath….
The Trial to prove Guilt for Innocence
As the Nazis began to lose their fervor, The Allied Powers took their supporters head-on. And the Holland was no exception.
Our hero Meegeren was no longer demanded for his paintings. He earned an epithet of being a traitor against his own country. He was charged for treasonous collaboration with the Nazis for delivering Vermeer’s early masterpiece, ‘Christ with the Adulteress’. Death was certain for our hero.
And now came one of the strangest trials in Dutch history. The trail where proving the guilt for forgery was the only route to innocence.
Meegeren explained before everyone, the step by step process of how he forged Vermeer’s paintings.
Do you think it is easy to prove that you are a forger? Of course not! Especially when the authority on Vermeer, Mr. Abraham argued in favor of the painting’s authenticity. At the end, he needed to protect his reputation.
It seemed all over for Meegeren. Death seemed inevitable.
But the last work of forgery was still to be presented.
As our hero prepared a fresh Vermeer masterpiece all by himself during the trial, the jury finally believed him.
From a traitor, Meegeren became a folk hero who tricked the Nazis for purpose and won the trail!
Our hero was acquitted for proving his guilt! But he had to remain behind bars for one year as a punishment for his fraud.
This was the cost of his life! Cheers!