VERMEER, A MYTH LEADING TO FORGERIES
Another painter much copied was Vermeer of Delft whose works were sold during many decades as by Pieter de Hooch.
In fact there were several artists bearing the name of J. Vermeer during the 17th Century and it was Joshua Reynolds, a celebrated English painter of the 18th Century, who first discovered the existence of that mysterious master.
A list of 63 works by Vermeer was made up in 1866 but now only 41 or 42 have been authenticated as by his hand.
Several Vermeer paintings were sold as genuine between 1900 and 1945 as this rediscovered master had become the target of several forgers. As an example, the most sensational forgeries were produced by a painter called Hans van Meegeren.
In 1937, Abraham Bredius, a well-known expert, judged that a painting titled «The Pilgrims of Emmaus» was Vermeer's masterpiece, an opinion that prompted the Boymans Museum in Rotterdam to decide to acquire such piece.
Between 1939 and 1943 several experts claimed they had discovered other works by Vermeer, «The Blessing of Isaac», «Isaac Blessing Jacob», a head of Christ, «The Last Supper» and the «Adultery Woman».
During the German occupation of Holland another Vermeer titled «The Washerwoman» appeared on the market while in 1943, a group of art dealers from Amsterdam sold to the Rijksmuseum a painting titled «Christ in the house of Martha and Mary». After such purchase was made it was then rumoured that several paintings by Vermeer were in the possession of some Dutch dealers.
However many specialists started to cast doubts over these works after it had been discovered that they had all belonged to Hans van Meegeren, a modest artist. They then noticed that some of his paintings were closely similar in style to «The Last Supper» and «The Pilgrims of Emmaus».
It was also discovered that a banker in Amsterdam had been in touch in 1943 with van Meegeren who had met in his office a representative of the Goudstikker Gallery to whom he had sold «The Adultery Woman» for an important sum of money.