This video is pretty darn cool. The Scream is especially good but you’ll also see Nighthawks, The Gleaners, The Girl with the Pearl Earring, the Seurrat pointillism one that I can never remember the name of, Escher, and Magritte’s Son of Man:
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.
I watched Tim’s Vermeer last night which heavily features Vermeer’s Music Lesson. In the top right hand corner of The Music Lesson there’s a painting on the wall which got me wondering about paintings of paintings. I was pretty sure they cropped up in other works by Vermeer, and I’d come across paintings of complete collections before so thought I’d see how popular they were. It turns out there are a lot.
If we had a complete list of every painting that featured another painting and a complete list of every painting featured in a painting, finding a painting of a painting of a painting would be trivial. It would be whichever painting (or paintings) appeared on both lists.
I don’t have those lists.
I started with paintings of galleries and art collections both for the numerical advantage they offer and as the depicted art is the subject matter it’s more easily discernible than art featured incidentally in other paintings. Wikipedia tells me these paintings of galleries and art collections became popular among Flemish artists in the early 17th Century, driven by early innovators like Frans Francken the Younger and Jan Brueghel the Elder and there certainly are some great ones by Flemish artists:
But great as these and dozens more are, none of them feature paintings that feature paintings. They do, however, feature some pretty famous works: the Louvre painting above features what is probably the most famous painting in the world, The Sense of Sight at the top has Rubens’ Tiger Hunt, and Apelles’ gallery in the middle has works by Van Dyck, Rubens, Titian and more, though I have to give a special mention to Frans Snyder’s The Game Larder as it current resides at Charlecote House just a few miles up the road from me.
So the new game was spotting famous works in other works, I went back to the first paintings I’d looked over by Francken and Brueghel to see what I could find. I had a low-res image of one of Francken’s works that I was pretty sure contained Rubens’ Samson and Delilah, a higher-res image confirmed that it did and a little more searching confirmed that it was a painting of the actual painting. But the search results had also thrown up another painting and even in the thumbnail it looked like it might contain my original quarry.
The painting was Sebastian Leerse in his Gallery (seen at the top of the post) and the painting at the bottom right was definitely what I was after, the question now was: was that a real painting? And of a real painting? Or a painting of some imagined painting of a painting?
Francken himself appears to be represented twice in this collection of paintings. In the centre of the picture hangs a Biblical scene, an adoration of the magi, that is quite reminiscent of a known work by him. The painting in the bottom right is also by Francken. It represents the ancient legend of the Greek painter Apelles, who became infatuated with his model Campaspe, the mistress of Alexander the Great.
That second work would be this:
Apelles and Pancaspe by Frans Francken the Younger
Detail of the two works
As for whether the painting in this painting is a real painting… yes and no. Apelles lived well over two thousand years ago and while he likely did paint Pancaspe/Campaspe we have no idea what that painting looked like. Still pretty neat though.
If you know of any other examples hit me up on twitter @dan_connolly.