Does the world need another book on Han van Meegeren, or, for that matter, on Johannes Vermeer, the great Dutch seventeenth-century artist whom van Meegeren so assiduously forged during the 1930s and ’40s? Probably not, but the truth is that these two compatriots—separated by three centuries—will continue to cast their spell on future generations: the artist through the mystery of his life and the magical allure of his paintings, and the forger through the sheer audacity of his deception.

The van Meegeren saga has become, over the last fifty years of re-telling, a staple of popular culture: how a painter of middling talent and success undertook to hoodwink virtually the entire art-world establishment by producing not copies, not even derivations, but true inventions in the style of Vermeer. They were pictures—depicting elaborate Biblical subjects—for which there were no known original prototypes but...


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