The judge asked van Meegeren, “You do admit, though, that you sold these pictures for very high prices?” to which the artist replied, “I could hardly have done otherwise. Had I sold them for low prices, it would have been obvious they were fake!”
Han van Meegeren was one of the 20th Century’s best art forgers, in today’s money known sales of his works (sold as Vermeer’s) amount to over $35 million. His forgeries were so convincing that when one of his works was found in the collection of Herman Göring after the Second World War art experts refused to believe he had forged the piece and he he was arrested as a collaborator and put on trial for treason, punishable by death.
After being confined to the headquarters of an Amsterdam military command for a few months, van Meegeren offered a proposition to prove this innocence — he’d forge one last Vermeer before a panel of reporters and court-appointed witnesses. The court agreed, and the man was brought his paints and brushes. Over the course of six weeks, a drunk and highvan Meegeren (he claimed this was the only way he could work) slowly crafted his last Vermeer, “Jesus Among the Doctors.” Forgery experts subsequently determined that it was of such a high quality that van Meegeren couldn’t possibly be lying, and his abetting the enemy charge was dropped.
Although van Meegeren’s fraudulent art career had been exposed he became a hero in the eyes of the Dutch for putting one over the Nazis, he was sentenced to just a year though he died before he could start his sentence.