The Amsterdam painter Han van Meegeren was arrested four weeks after the liberation of Holland, on the 29 May 1945 to be exact, on charges of "conspiracy with the enemy." He had sold a painting said to be by Johannes Vermeer to Reichsmarschall Göring. After six weeks of intensive interrogation he confessed the by now world-famous truth: he had painted the Vermeer in question, Christ and the Adulteress, all by himself, and with that several other high quality pictures, hanging in museums and included in private collections all over the world.
These fakes by Van Meegeren had fooled reknowned arthistorical scientists and connoisseurs. The socalled Vermeers, Frans Hals and Pieter De Hooghs had earned him millions of guilders. An example of ill fame is the composition with Christ and the Disciples at Emmaus, sold to the Rotterdam Museum Boymans-van Beuningen on the 18 June 1938. This shocking confession initially met with disbelief. Van Meegeren therefore offered to produce a "brand-new" Vermeer, in the presence of his accusers in court. The authorities, now very curious, gave him permission to do so. In October 1945, witnessed by a number of arthistorians and journalists, Van Meegeren painted the present lot, Christ and the Scribes in the Temple, and it soon became clear that he spoke the truth.
He became famous overnight as a patriotic hero that had deceived the German enemy, present on the frontcover of every newspaper. However, although charges of conspiracy were dropped, the Dutch authorities still sentenced him on the 29 October 1947 to one year imprisonment for falsification. He died in a prison hospital a few months later, a famous though utterly bitter and disappointed man.
The late Sir Ernest Oppenheimer, South African collector and former owner of the present lot, had a special admiration for Van Meegeren. His biography cites Van Meegeren during the lawsuit, when the artist apparently stated that he forged the paintings "to show up the ignorance of so-called international experts."
See colour illustration