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Vermeer: Erroneous Attributions and Forgeries

(part one)

Vermeer Thefts, Forgeries & Erroneous Attributions

"For nearly 200 years after his death in 1675, no one knew the extent of Vermeer's oeuvre. A few connoisseurs in the Netherlands maintained continuous contact with some of his flagship paintings, but by the end of the 18th century, many of Vermeer's other works remained hidden or were attributed to another painter. By the 1850s, however, the French art critic Etienne J. Théophile Thoré (more publicly known as William Burger, the pseudonym he adopted in 1855, during his political exile from France and retained until the end of his life) had launched a formidable campaign to locate Vermeer's work.

Thore Photograph of Thoré-Bürger from the sales catalogue of the
Thoré-Bürger collection, 1892

Despite an obsessive desire to establish the artistic identity of what he dubbed the 'Sphinx of Delft,' Thoré-Bürger's search was especially hindered by the movable traverse of Vermeer's style. All of these factors, combined with the dispersal of Vermeer's paintings over time after his death, and a rather wide range of techniques that the artist employed, presented experts with a most difficult task of attempting to authenticate (and date) Vermeer's work. Consequently, by 1866, when Thoré-Bürger formally brought Vermeer to the attention of readers of Paris'Gazette des Beaux Arts through three articles that later became a book, he credited Vermeer with more than seventy paintings. Clearly, in an effort to be inclusive, he had cast his net far too widely, though Thoré-Bürger did succeed in defining the stylistic, thematic contours of Vermeer's oeuvre." Boone, Jon. "Saint Praxedis: Missing the Mark." Essential Vermeer, July 2002. http://www.essentialvermeer.com/saint_praxedis.html.

Although Thoré had wrongly attributed many paintings to Vermeer, the importance of his pioneering effort is of pivotal importance to scholars today. Dutch painting at the time had not yet been studied systematically, and few of today's indispensable analytical methods and technical supports existed. Far less excusable, however, were the forgeries that came later.


"Jan der Meer de Delft" Thoré-Bürger

Oct. 1, 1866 - pp. 297–330

Nov. 1, 1866 - pp. 458–470
Dec. 1, 1866 - pp. 542–575

GAZETTE DES BEAUX ARTS Jan der Meer de Delft by Thorè-Bürger

"By the end of the nineteenth century, Vermeer [paintings] were beginning to fetch big money. American millionaires, including Henry Marquand, J. Piermont Morgan, Henry Frick, and Isabella Stewart Gardner, had joined the Vermeer owners' club, and the great American museums were discreetly lobbying for the pictures to be given to them or at least lent to them and later given as bequests. The Dutch museum director and art historian Abraham Bredius did well in this process. He had bought the Allegory of Faith in 1899 for roughly 700 guilders, loaned it to the Mauritshuis and the Boijmans Museum for many years, and then sold it for $300,000 to the American collector Michael Friedsam. Friedsam later left it to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Vermeer prices were also affected by shortage: there just weren't enough of them to go around. With hindsight, we can see that the conditions were becoming ripe for new 'Vermeers' to turn up, whether as a result of generous attribution or from counterfeiting, as entrepreneurs thought there should be more of them to fulfill the demand."Bailey, Anthony. Vermeer: A View of Delft. New York: Holt Paperbacks, 2001, 226–227.

In 1928, Wilhelm Reinhold Valentiner, the art historian and director of the Detroit Museum of Art, wrote optimistically: "It is still quite possible that for a number of years to come new Vermeers may now and then appear." "Vermeer used a very small number of models and repeated certain details like costumes, curtains, pillows, windows, mantelpieces, and even paintings hanging on the walls so often that newly discovered works by him frequently seem like puzzle pictures taken from different groupings in known pictures by him. [They almost serve as] a description of how to forge a Vermeer."

Vermeer's name was brought into the spotlight of international attention in the 1920s and 1930s as enthusiastic collectors, in competition with one another, were willing to pay high prices for what a greedy art trade, with the complicity of trusted scholars, was too willing to establish as authentic Vermeers. In 1937, Philip Leslie Hale, an American painter, teacher, and writer, who published the first monograph on Vermeer in America (Vermeer, 1913 and 1937), summed up the fluid state of affairs as follows:

"Discoveries of paintings which someone would like to attribute to Vermeer of Delft are announced from time to time. Such 'finds' were naturally quite frequently heralded in the years between the end of the World War and the oncoming of the depression of 1929, for in that era many works of art ascribed to celebrated old masters were sold to American men of wealth at fabulously high prices. Because of his vogue among collectors, the market value of a work that confidently could be attributed to Vermeer became tremendous, a circumstance which naturally intensified the search for paintings that might by any authority be given to Vermeer.

"It would be difficult, and hardly worth while, to describe in detail all the paintings which collectors and art dealers, sometimes after authentication by an 'authority,' have declared to be by Vermeer, but which have seemed, upon later and perhaps more disinterested examination, to be the work of lesser or unknown artists. This situation will presumably continue. It is well for those who appreciate Vermeer's work for its intrinsic worth to be slow to accept new attributions, however cleverly supported, since all the trustworthy evidence indicates that the number of paintings from Vermeer's hand could not have been large. 'Discoveries,' for that reason if for no other, must face a presumption of reasonable doubt, which can be resolved only by very strong evidence in their favor, documentary or internal, or preferably both."

Click here to access a self portrait by Hale.

Although the "Vermeer craze'" assumed international proportions, it had yet to reach its sad climax in the post-WWII trial of the infamous Dutch forger, Han van Meegeren.

Vermeer: Separating the wheat from the chaff

Following Vermeer's death, his paintings were dispersed across the European continent. Within a few decades, all sight of his artistic development and a number of his works was lost.

  • In 1866, Etienne J. Théophile Thoré (more publicly known as William Burger or Thoré-Bürger) published a memorable article in the Gazette of Beaux Arts. In it, he described seventy-four paintings (and two drawings) by Vermeer, although he admitted some of his attributions were based on little more than a black-and-white photograph, a signature, or hearsay. In all, Thoré's catalog lists 47 paintings with figures, 22 cityscapes or landscapes, and two still lifes. However, he designated only 49 pictures with an asterisk, which he felt were authentic beyond doubt. However, Charles Blanc, who founded the Gazette des Beaux-Arts, was Thoré's very first critic. In 1860, shaking his head, he had remarked: "Nowadays Mr. Burger sees Delft just about everywhere," but added soothingly: "although until now we have benefited from his mania; leave him alone."21 Unfortunately, the overzealous Thore-Burger did not take the essence of this warning to heart and continued to see Vermeers all around him.Ben Broos, "Vermeer: Malice and Misconception," in Vermeer Studies, ed. Ivan Gaskell and Michiel Jonker (Washington D.C.: National Gallery of Art; New Haven and London: Yale University, 1998), 22. To view Thoré's catalog, click here.
  • In 1883, Henry Harvard (Van der Meer de Delft, Paris, 1888) added one more painting and brought the number to 75 (?).
  • In 1911, Hofstede de Groot published the first edition of his monumental A Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch Painters of the Seventeenth Century. He showed that both Thoré-Bürger and Harvard had distributed various works by Renesse, Pieter de Hooch, Jan Steen, Gerrit ter Borch, Gabriel Metsu, Cornelis de Man, Jan van der Laan, Melchior d'Hondecoete, Vermeer of Haarlem, and Emmanuel de Witte to the hand of Vermeer. De Groot pared down the number of Vermeer paintings to 33. However, he included The Guitar Player in the Johnson Collection (Philadelphia Museum of Art), which is today unanimously considered a copy of the Kenwood picture, and The Astronomer in the collection of Viscometer du Bus de Gisignies, Brussels, which at the time was not accepted by all critics. After De Groot's catalogue, a steady flow of new works attributed to Vermeer flooded the market in the 1920s and 1930s, often making sensational headlines.
  • In 1937, Philip Leslie Hale, an American painter, teacher, and writer, published the first monograph on Vermeer in America (Vermeer, 1913 and 1937). Hale listed 47 pictures that he believed had been "ably supported" by one or more opinions of reputable critics, and a long list of works that he felt were still "on probation," none of which are today accepted as by the hand of Vermeer.
  • The resolution of the Van Meegeren affair led to a significant reassessment in the art world, particularly evident in A. B. de Vries' monograph on Vermeer. The first edition, influenced by Dirck Hannema's exhibition (Vermeer, oorsprong en invloed: Fabritius, de Hooch, de Witte; 1935)In 1935, following a major renovation of the Boymans Museum, Hannema staged a major Vermeer exhibition, which was one of the first blockbuster exhibitions in the Netherlands and marked the opening of the new Boymans​​. This exhibition was titled "Vermeer, oorsprong en invloed: Fabritius, de Hooch, de Witte" and was the first ever to be held with Vermeer's name in the title. It aimed to explore Vermeer's art and its influences, focusing on his predecessors and followers like Carel Fabritius, Pieter de Hooch, and Emanuel de Witte​​. Hannema's exhibition at the Boymans Museum was not only instructive and exploratory in its approach to Vermeer's art but also served as a publicity event. In any case, of the fifteen works attributed to Vermeer were not genuine, as now appears so obvious with hind- sight. , was published in 1939 with a certain perception of Vermeer. However, the post-war second edition in 1948 underwent major revisions, including a reduction in the number of works attributed to Vermeer from forty-three to thirty-five. This change was a response to the revelation of forgeries, leading de Vries to eliminate any dubious works from Vermeer's catalog, marking a shift in understanding and appreciation of the artist's true oeuvre. In 1939, A. B. de Vries added new paintings to Vermeer's oeuvre in his catalogue, which, however, did not win undisputed acceptance: Portrait of a Young Man in a High Hat (anonymous Dutch collection), Girl with a Blue Bow (then in the collection of Mrs. Louis F. Hyde), Young Woman in a Hat (Baron Thyssen-Bornemisza), The Lace Maker (National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.), and The Smiling Girl (National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.), as well as Supper at Emmaus, which was deleted from the 1948 English edition. The author revised both the text and catalogue in the 1948 Dutch edition, bringing the total number of Vermeer paintings from 43 to 35.
  • In 1950, Lawrence Gowing published his influential monograph (Vermeer), setting the example followed by nearly all subsequent scholars by not even listing the rejected works, as de Vreis had done. Gowing listed 36 works by Vermeer's hand, including the Young Woman Seated at the Virginals, now in the New York Leiden Collection. Gowing had advanced some doubts about the Maid and Mistress.
  • In 1958, Ludwig Goldscheider Johannes Vermeer, The Paintings: The Complete Edition) published 37 authentic works by Vermeer, including the Leidn Collection Young Woman at the Virginals and a drawing that is no longer held to be by Vermeer's hand, and rejected nine paintings.
  • In 1976, Albert Blankert published Vermeer of Delft in which he included 31 authentic works by Vermeer and rejected four works that were, and still are, largely accepted by authoritative experts of Dutch painting: Woman with a Lute, Girl Interrupted in Her Music, Girl with a Red Hat and Girl with a Flute. He excluded the Young Woman Seated at the Virginals (Leiden Collection, New York) from consideration.
  • In 1981, Arthur K. Wheelock Jr. listed 34 authentic works, rejecting the Girl with a Flute and attributing it to the circle of Vermeer. He also rejected the Leiden Collection's Young Woman Seated at the Virginals but adds the Saint Praxedis, presumably a copy of an Italian painting by Felice Ficherelli, (1605–1660)
  • In 2008, (27 years after the latest catalog and 142 years after Thoré-Bürger's publication) Walter Liedtke reintroduced the Young Woman Seated at the Virginals bringing the number of authentic Vermeers to 37.
  • In an investigation in 2022, the research team at the National Gallery of Art used advanced technology to study the materials and techniques used in the painting Girl with a Flute.Marjorie E. Wieseman, Alexandra Libby, E. Melanie Gifford, and Dina Anchin, "Vermeer’s Studio and the Girl with a Flute: New Findings from the National Gallery of Art," Journal of Historians of Netherlandish Art 14, no. 2 (Summer 2022): DOI: 10.5092/jhna.2022.14.2.3. They found several deviations from what is typically known about Vermeer's methods. Based on these findings, the researchers concluded that Vermeer did not create this painting. Instead, it was likely made by a contemporary who was closely related to him and had a deep understanding of his work methods.
  • In 2023, Gregor Weber and Pieter Roelofs accept the Saint Praxedis as by Vermeer and, contrary to the opinion of the National Gallery team, maintain that the Girl with a Flute is authentic.Pieter Roelofs and Gregor Weber, VERMEER (Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, 2023), 213-214.

The Rustic Cottage

Dirk Laan, Cottages erroneously attributed to Johannes Vermeer
The Rustic Cottage
Dirk Jan van der Laan
c. 1800
Oil on canvas
Staatliche Museen zu Berlin,

In 1856, the Dutch-German collector Barthold Suermondt (1818–1887) bought this small landscape from a collector in Liege Gustav Waagen compiled a catalogue of Suermondt's collectionThe Suermondt-Ludwig-Museum in Aachen, Germany, is famous for its medieval art collection, particularly sculptures and panel paintings, and is named after Barthold Suermondt, a 19th-century industrialist and art collector. Suermondt's original collection featured a wide range of artworks, including an impressive array of Dutch and Flemish paintings from the 15th to 17th centuries, with pieces by masters like Rubens, van Dyck, and Memling. Facing financial issues in the 1870s, Suermondt sold much of his collection, with many pieces going to the Berlin State Museums. Despite this, the Suermondt collection is still recognized for its historical significance and quality in the realm of private art collecting. in 1860, for which Thore-Burger, the connoisseur, was allowed to writean introduction. Waagen believed that The Rustic Cottage, which had formerly been attached to the names of Meindert Hobbema (1638–1709) and Jacob van Ruisdael  (c. 1629–1682) , had been painted by Philips Koninck  (1619– 1688)..

"Thoré-BürgerAt one time or another, Thoré-Bürger owned four Vermeers, including A Lady Standing at the Virginal, Woman with a Pearl Necklace, The Concert, and A Lady Seated at the Virginal. Additionally, he possessed other artworks that he wrongly attributed to Vermeer. was unwavering in his belief in the authenticity of The Rustic Cottage, considering it his fifth major Vermeer discovery after the View of Delft in the Mauritshuis, The Little Street and The Milkmaid in the Six collection, and Head of a Girl (Study of a Young Woman) in the Arenberg collection. This painting was particularly significant to him, almost his Achilles' heel. In an 1866 article, he presented a superior reproduction of the painting and reiterated his stance that it was 'undeniably a landscape by Vermeer of Delft,' also referencing its mention in the Dissius sale of 1696. He argued that this work was the third authentic exterior by Vermeer, alongside the View of Delft and The Little Street, and he used intricate logic to support his claim. Thoré-Bürger was intent on establishing Vermeer as a landscape painter."Ben Broos, "Vermeer: Malice and Misconception,"in Vermeer Studies, ed. Ivan Gaskell and Michiel Jonker (Washington D.C.: National Gallery of Art; New Haven and London: Yale University, 1998), 23. In the annual Paris Salon of 1866, this landscape was shown along with other Vermeers, some authentic but some not, and was among the public favorites. According to the French writer Charles Yriarte, painters were particularly enthralled by its light. Zacharie Astruc, the French sculptor, painter, and poet, considered it a powerful composition and an unforgettable example of Vermeer.Jowell, Frances Suzman, "Vermeer and Thoré-Burger: Recoveries of Reputation," in Vermeer Studies, edited by Ivan Gaskell and Michiel Jonker, 39. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.: Yale University Press, 1998.

"From 1748 to 1890, the Salon de Paris was the official exhibition of the Académie des Beaux-Arts. The greatest art event in the Western world, its (bi)annual shows were highly popular with the public. Entrance fees were affordable for all, and sixty thousand curious visitors flocked to the show's first day. Exhibitions ran for several weeks. Newspapers competed to report on the quality of the works and the attitudes of artists and public, often in the form of satire and caricature."Broos, Ben. "Vermeer: Malice and Misconception." In Vermeer Studies, edited by Ivan Gaskell and Michiel Jonker, 22. National Gallery of Art Washington D.C.: Yale University Press, 1998.

One of the most successful parts of the 1866 Salon was the Exposition Rétrospective of old and modern masters, which began in May. The exhibition was held in the four galleries of the Palais de l'Industrie des Champs-Élysées, in the same building as the annual Salon and directly adjacent to it. The catalogue introduction insisted that the Exposition Rétrospective was intended to be a salutary influence on contemporary artists and on public taste by its demonstration of durable artistic achievements. However, it was also a celebration of private collections, a showcase of famously owned works of art of interest to present and potential collectorsThoré-Bürger. "A Critical Rôle in the Art Market." The Burlington Magazine 138, no. 1115 (February 1996): 117. Thoré had been influential behind the scenes, in charge of organizing and hanging the exhibition.

The exhibition began with 180 paintings but generated such an enormous public success that many private art collectors offered their works for display until it closed with almost 300. The works on display spanned centuries of European art including both Old Masters, such as Beato Angelico, and moderns, such as Delacroix. The exhibition featured eleven paintings believed to be by Vermeer, who was at the time little known outside the Netherlands. Hand picked by Thoré, there were four interiors with figures, four town views and three landscapes. Today, only the interiors, The Geographer, the Officer and Laughing Girl, A Lady Standing at a Virginal, and the Woman with a Pearl Necklace, are considered authentic."B. Perat: Salon de Paris 1866." Rijksmuseum Amsterdam Blog, March 2013. http://rijksmuseumamsterdam.blogspot.it/2013/03/b-perat-salon-de-paris-1866.html.

"The Rustic Cottage was bought in 1865 by the Dutch-german art collector Barthold Suermondt, an entrepreneur, banker, philanthropist, and art collector, from a private art collector in Liège. In 1860, Gustav Waagen compiled the catalogue of Surmount's art collection attributing it to the Dutch landscape painter Philips Koninck, although it had been formerly attributed to Meyndert Hobbema and Jacob van Ruisdael. When Thoré, who had been charged to write the catalogue's introduction, saw the picture he immediately believed it was by the hand of Vermeer."Jowell, Frances Suzman. "Vermeer and Thoré-Burger: Recoveries of Reputation." In Vermeer Studies, edited by Ivan Gaskell and Michiel Jonker, 39. National Gallery of Art Washington D.C.: Yale University Press, 1998.Thoré was particularly attached to the picture which he held to be one of Vermeer's finest works.

Abraham Bredius Abraham Bredius

Years later, the young art historian Abraham Bredius was struck by the "modern look" of the picture, which in the meantime had been purchased by the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin. He wrote an article ("Erin pseudo-Vermeer," 1883) in which he correctly identified Van der Laan as the painting's author, and in the process made a name for himself. Ironically, many years later, Bredius would discredit himself by attributing the newly discovered Supper at Emmaus to Vermeer.This painting was later proved to be a crude forgery by Han van Meegeren. The 83 year old art historian wrote an article in the Burlington Magazine, the "art bible" of the time, in which he declared, "It is a wonderful moment in the life of a lover of art when he finds himself suddenly confronted with a hitherto unknown painting by a great master, untouched, on the original canvas, and without any restoration, just as it left the painter's studio. And what a picture! Neither the beautiful signature . . . nor the pointillé on the bread which Christ is blessing, is necessary to convince us that we have here—I am inclined to say—the masterpiece of Johannes Vermeer of Delft . . . quite different from all his other paintings and yet every inch a Vermeer. In no other picture by the great master of Delft do we find such sentiment, such a profound understanding of the Bible story—a sentiment so nobly human expressed through the medium of highest art."

The Little Street

View of Houses by Dirk Laan erroneously attributed to Johannes Vermeer The Little Street
Dirk Jan van der Laan
(whereabouts unknown)

When in 1792, Jan van der Laan (1759–1829) painted this variant of Vermeer's Little Street, he probably had not even the slightest idea that it would later be attributed to the master himself. This work was shown with great success in the Parisian 1866 Salon exhibition.

Van der Laan was a patrician and amateur painter from Zwolle. He was a clerk at the district court, a member of the city council, as well as an extraordinary member of the Council of the States of Overijssel. According to contemporaries, he continued to paint as a hobby; his works were often sold as those of Vermeer of Delft. He was presumably active between 1774 and c. 1829.

Street Scene

Thoré's personal collection comprised this Street Scene by the minor Dutch landscape painter Jacobus Vrel (fl. 1654–c.1670), along with two other Vrels which he considered by Vermeer as well.

At the 1866 Exposition Rètrospective, the Street Scene was the public favorite and was also considered one of Vermeer's best works by connoisseurs who were impressed by the novelty of the picturesque Dutch street scenes. Zacharie Astruc (1833– 1907) , the French sculptor, painter, poet, and art critic, singled this work out for its studied simplicity: "One hears voices..." he wrote. "What intimate existence, and how well expressed."Jowell, Frances Suzman. "Vermeer and Thoré-Burger: Recoveries of Reputation." In Vermeer Studies, edited by Ivan Gaskell and Michiel Jonker, 39. National Gallery of Art Washington D.C.: Yale University Press, 1998. The painting was afterward attributed to Jacobus Vrel.

Astruc was confident that Vermeer's reputation would grow. "Biographers are silent about him; amateurs pull a face on hearing his name; he is known only by a small circle. Vermeer evokes no parallels or comparisons. Only yesterday his many virtues were appreciated by the merest few and it is no exaggeration to say that the Salon Retrospective has brought him to light. Vermeer had "pleased, astonished, seduced; his gallant style, the fine qualities of his observations, his concise and sparing manner, the fervor of his brush, his delicate and fluid harmonies, his understanding of 'l'effet,' and the concentration of interest on the essential parts of the subject all this strikes one at first sight, and further study only reinforces this first favorable impression. From now on all the world will celebrate the interesting Meer;... and who knows?... perhaps one day indiscreet people will end up by calling him 'le grand Meer.'"

Street Scene
Street Scene

Jacobus Vrel
c. 1654–1662
Oil on panel, 16 1/4 x 13 1/2 in.
J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

"Signatures on paintings are the only surviving documents of Jacobus Vrel's life. His seemingly naïve style and his pictures' rarity even have prompted speculation that he was an amateur. Scholars most often link Vrel's manner to Delft artists such as Vermeer and Pieter de Hooch, but elements in his street scenes may indicate connections to Haarlem, Friesland, Flanders, or the lower Rhineland. Scholars have attributed thirty-eight paintings depicting domestic interiors, courtyards, street scenes, and church interiors to Vrel. According to some scholars, only dated painting, from 1654, suggests that, rather than following, Vrel anticipated Delft artists' interest in domestic themes and light effects.

Vrel rejected Dutch artists' traditional approach of describing surfaces in great detail. Instead, he created lofty spaces, often conveying an eerie feeling of emptiness. His interiors, with their curiously stunted furniture, frequently display a single woman, usually viewed from behind or in profile. His street scenes are unusual in their anonymity, showing unremarkable back streets and ordinary people. Vrel's painting technique—a straightforward manner without glazes or other refinements complemented his unpretentious subjects.""Jacobus Vrel." Getty Museum Website. http://www.getty.edu/art/gettyguide/artMakerDetails?maker=1039&page=1.

Street View

Street View, Jacobus Vre
Street View
Jacobus Vrel
Oil on panel, 36 x 28 cm.
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

This painting was part of the art collection of Thoré-Bürger, who firmly believed it was by Vermeer. It was sold to the Rijksmuseum at the auction of the art historian's art collection held on December 5, 1892, at the Hôtel Drouot, Paris.

Click here to view a high-resolution image of this painting.

View of Dunes

Landscape erroneously attributed to Johannes Vermeer
View of Dunes
Dirk Jan van der Meer
Oil on panel
Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Gemäldegalerie

Among the 11 paintings by Vermeer, this view of dunes was one of the three landscapes which Thoré-Bürger had selected for the Exposition Rètrospective.

It is generally held that Thoré's radical leftist political leanings and particular ability to be easily swayed by signatures brought him to represent Vermeer chiefly as a landscape painter. In fact, in his three-part article in the Gazette des Beaux Arts (1866), in which for the first time Vermeer was brought to the attention of the wider public, he included some 22 landscape and cityscapes by Vermeer (click here to view the catalogue). Some works chosen by Thoré were later discovered to be by painters such as Jacob Vrel, Jan van der Laan, and Vermeer's namesake and contemporary, Dirk Jan van der Meer, while others were by well-known Dutch landscape painters such Jacob van Ruisdael (1629–1682) or Jacob Koninck (c. 1615–1695).

A Young Woman Reading

Woman Reading erroneously attributed to Johannes Vermeer
A Young Woman Reading
Unknown imitator of Vermeer
c. 1925–27
Oil on canvas, 19.7 x 14.6 cm.
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Adapted from Walter Liedtke, 2007Liedtke, Walter. Dutch Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. 1st ed. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2007.

This picture first passed from the Radenmaker collection, The Hague, to the Wildenstein & Co. in Paris after through the art dealer Joseph Joel Duveen refused to buy it. It had been initially "discovered" by the dealer and art historian of dubious reputation, Vitale Bloch. In 1926, it was exhibited in the Reinhardt Galleries of New York. Wildenstein sold it to New York financier Jules S. Bache, a New York financier and determined art collector, who had ardently desired to augment his private art collection with a Vermeer but wound up purchasing two paintings that were not by the Delft Master's hand. Although Cornelis Hofstede de Groot, the art historian, art collector, expert, and connoisseur specialized in Dutch seventeenth-century painting, assigned it to Vermeer's hand, other critics were more cautious.

The picture had been previously attributed by some to Jef van der Veken, a Belgian copyist, although the leading Van Veken authority of today considers it extremely unlikely.

As a forgery painted in the Netherlands about 1925–1927, this small canvas is of interest for the history of taste in America. When Bache, who bought the picture in 1928 for $134,800, started assembling his collection in the 1920s, Vermeer was the most desired of the "three prime immortals" of the Dutch school—the others being Frans Hals and Rembrandt.

The picture's attribution was first doubted by Philip Hale in 1937. Hale wrote, "Some experts of repute have vouched for this painting. If it is by Vermeer it is not a very good example. Its best qualities are its colour scheme and the distinctive arrangement. The latter seems not entirely conclusive—not convincingly in Vermeer's manner. He often placed the head low in the picture, with a great deal of space above it, as in the Dresden Letter (Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window). Sometimes, again, he placed the head as most other painters would, rather near the top of his composition. This head appears to be neither. It merely has been put awkwardly low with no compensating charm of tapestry or map or whatever else might be behind it."Philip L. Hale, Jan Vermeer of Delft (Boston: Small, Maynard and Co., 1913; revised ed. by F. Coburn and R. Hale, Boston: Hale, Cushman & Flint, 1937), 131.

The fabrication of this painting is atypical of the seventeenth century. Analysis reveals the use of a zinc white primer, which was not widely used as an artists' material until the end of the eighteenth century. After the painting was completed, the support was manipulated to induce cracks. A black material, possibly ink, was rubbed into the cracks, and the surface was distressed and retouched in an attempt to simulate an old paint film. Metropolitan Museum of Art Conservator Dorothy Mahon's examination of the paint composition has determined that it is not water-soluble. From this Jonathan LopezLopez, Jonathan. The Man Who Made Vermeers: Unvarnishing the Legend of Master Forger Han van Meegeren. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2008. concludes that it is not the work of Dutch art forgers, Theodorus van Wijngaarden (1874–1952) or Han van Meegeren (1889–1947), painter of the famous Vermeer counterfeit, Christ at Emmaus, both of whom used a gelatin-based pigment in the 1920s.Walter Liedtke considers the possibility of Van Meegeren's authorship, and notes that the picture was perhaps an early effort by the same painter who made the Woman Reading a Letter, a Vermeer forgery of about 1935 (Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam).

The picture may be a collaborative work by Van Meegeren and Theo van WijngaardenTheo van Wijngaarden (1874–1952) was a Dutch art forger. Often associated with fellow art forger Han van Meegeren, Van Wijngaarden was a lesser artist whose legitimate income came largely from restoration, working with cheaply purchased pictures and moving them to other areas of Europe to sell for a profit.

Portrait of a Man

portrait of a seated man by and unknown artist
Portrait of a Man
Unknown artist
Oil on canvas, 87.5 x 66 cm.
RBK/netherlands Institute for
Cultural Heritage, The Hague

In 1938–1940, this picture was on the Amsterdam market and it seems it had come from a private English collector. During WW II, it was acquired by the Vienna Kunsthistorisches Museum where it remained briefly. It was accepted as an autograph Vermeer by various scholars the last of which was Ary Bob de Vries who, in 1948, dated it c. 1665. Two years later, he rejected it. The picture bore a signature "I V MEER 16.." which was proved to be false.

The painting was published in full color with great assurance in 1939 in De Vries' monograph on Vermeer of 1939. However, following the Van Meegeren debacle of false Vermeers, De Vries fell victim to his self-censorship. De Vries confessed, "It was only after the war that this bewildering forgery business came to light. It opened my eyes completely. I now feel that I have to remove every doubtful work from the artist's oeuvre." He beleived it was executed in the manner of Bartholomeus van der Helst  (1613–1670) with background trees in the style of Paulus Potter (1625– 1654), and bore a fake Vermeer signature. In 1948, he wrote, "I realize that I allowed myself to be misled; this portrait bears only the aintest resemblance to a Vermeer.

The Laughing Girl

Laughing Girl erroneously attributed to Johannes Vermeer
The Laughing Girl
Unknown imitator of Vermeer
Oil on canvas, 40 x 31 cm.
National Gallery, Washington D.C.

In 1926, this picture was discovered in the private collection of Walter Kurt Rhode in Berlin and sold, with a certificate of authenticity by Bode, as an early work by Johannes Vermeer to the American magnate and art collector, Andrew W. Mellon. Bode proclaimed it was a "characteristic work of the Delft Master Vermeer."

Mellon, an immensely wealthy American banker who was bitten by the art bug about the age of forty, was a prime target for European art dealers. Josef Duveen, an unscrupulous British art dealer who was considered one of the most influential at dealers of all time, had bribed Mellon's servants to keep him informed as to their master's comings and goings and kept a "dossier on Mellon's movements, his visitors, his art collection, his dinner parties, and whatever thoughts were heard escape his lips."Dolnick, Edward. The Forger's Spell: A True Story of Vermeer, Nazis, and the Greatest Art Hoax of the Twentieth Century. New York: Harper Perennial, 2008, 108. After Vermeer's Girl with a Red Hat, Mellon bought this painting and a Lace Maker, both of which turned out to be false.

Hofstede de Groot accepted it as genuine (1930) but De Vries, P. T. A. Swillens, Lawrence Gowing, and Vitale Bloch rejected it. Philip Hale felt that the technique was greatly inferior to that of the Girl with a Pearl Earring.

The sitter is garbed in buff with a white collar and a blue scarf on the head. The background is greenish. The figure's hair is brushed back from a high, broad forehead, and over it is a small cap or coif. The familiar pear-shaped pearl dangles from the right ear. Under a plain white collar is a nondescript gray-brown garment.

In 1937, Philip Hale wrote that while the latter [Girl with a Pearl Earring] is "astonishingly fine in the general light and shade of the face and in the making of the nose and mouth, in The Laughing Girl's favour, however, one can say that no other painter but Vermeer ever posed a head in quite that way or painted it with quite that technique."Philip L. Hale, Jan Vermeer of Delft (Boston: Small, Maynard and Co., 1913; revised ed. by F. Coburn and R. Hale, Boston: Hale, Cushman & Flint, 1937), 135.

The Laughing Girl now hangs in the "Special Collection" of the National Gallery in Washington and is thought to be a work by Van Meegeren and/or Van Wijngaarden, a lesser artist and restorer who was well known for executing copies of paintings that passed through his shop and adding signatures to unsigned works. Van Wijngaarden also purchased cheap pictures, reworked them and sold them in areas of Europe where they might be most easily sold for profit. It is believed that he collaborated with Van Meegeren's on several well-known forgeries, including a Frans Hals Smiling Girl. Van Wijngaarden frequently served as the front man, making the sales deals on Van Meegeren's forgeries.

According to Jonathan Lopez, "as far as Van Wijngaarden's granddaughter understood the arrangement, Van Meegeren furnished the raw image-making talent while her grandfather provided the technical knowledge of faking methods. Interestingly, this description of the partnership between Van Meegeren and Van Wijngaarden accords well with various facts uncovered, independently, through archival research into the scandalous case of The Laughing Cavalier."Lopez, Jonathan. The Man Who Made Vermeers: Unvarnishing the Legend of Master Forger Han van Meegeren. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2008, 66.

The Laughing Girl was exhibited in the Exhibition of Dutch Art 1450–1900 at the Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1929 (no. 317, as Head of a Young Girl by Johannes Vermeer). In 1935, it was exhibited in Rotterdam as an authentic work by Vermeer (cat. no. 88, Vermeer, oorsprong en invloed. Fabritius, de Hooch, de Witte, 9 July–9 October).

Bust of a Young Man

Bust of a Young Man erroneously attributed to Johannes Vermeer Bust of a Young Man
Attributed to Sébastien Bourdon
Oil on canvas, 59.7 x 49.5 cm.
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York captiongoeshere

This picture passed from the art collection of Yves Perdoux to that Jules S. Bache through the English art dealer Duveen. Bache, a New York financier and determined art collector, had acquired two paintings by Vermeer, neither of which was authentic.

In addition to his high profile in the business world, Bache was well known for his art collection, which contained important works including those by or attributed to Rembrandt, Titian, Albrecht Dürer, Diego Velázquez, Gerard David, Giovanni Bellini, and Sandro Botticelli. In 1937, he opened his magnificent art collection to the public, and in 1943 gifted some of his works to the Detroit Institute of Arts. In 1944, the remainder of his collection was given to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

The Bust of a Young Man was initially described to the hand of Sébastien Bourdon but later attributed to Vermeer by Hofstede de Groot, along with other scholars of repute. It was considered questionable by Emil Waldmann, in Kunst und Kiinstler, February, 1926.

Philip Hale noted that the "painting of the collar is not unlike [Vermeer's] manner; the head, on the other hand, though very ably made, does not resemble Vermeer's workmanship as much as do other heads which are less skillfully painted. The Girl with a Flute, for instance, is not a particularly attractive picture but it reeks of Vermeer. This head does not. It looks more like the Italianate work of some French or Netherlands painter trained in Italy. Vermeer's portraits were generally laid in in planes and then worked over. This head, very fluently executed, seems to have been done in a more 'fused' style."Philip L. Hale, Jan Vermeer of Delft (Boston: Small, Maynard and Co., 1913; revised ed. by F. Coburn and R. Hale, Boston: Hale, Cushman & Flint, 1937), 132.

Joseph Duveen
Joseph Duveen

"Joseph Duveen and his brother Henry J. Duveen were the most notable art dealers in London, Paris and New York from the late nineteenth century to the mid-twentieth century. Joseph's success is famously attributed to noticing that 'Europe has a great deal of art, and America has a great deal of money.' He made his fortune by buying works of art from declining European aristocrats and selling them to the millionaires of the United States. Duveen's clients included Henry Clay Frick, William Randolph Hearst, Henry E. Huntington, J.P. Morgan, Samuel H. Kress, Andrew Mellon, John D. Rockefeller, and a Canadian, Frank Porter Wood. The works that Duveen shipped across the Atlantic remain the core collections of many of the United States' most famous museums. Duveen played an important role in selling to self-made industrialists on the notion that buying art was also buying upper-class status. He greatly expanded the market, especially for Renaissance paintings, with the help of Bernard Berenson, who certified some questionable attributions, but whose ability to put an artistic personality behind paintings helped market them to purchasers whose dim perceptions of art history were as a series of biographies of masters.""Joseph Duveen." Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Duveen.

"During the 1920s, Duveen bought four dubious works by Vermeer, none of which proved to be authentic. Ironically, he turned down the only authentic Vermeer he was offered, The Girl with a Red Hat, not because he believed it was a fake but because it was too small. Knoedler & Co. snapped up the picture and sold it for a handsome sum to Andrew Mellon, who had previously bought other fake Vermeers."Lopez, Jonathan. "Han van Meegeren's Early Vermeers." Apollo: The International Magazine of the Arts 352 (July 2008): 22–29.

The Lace Maker

The Lacemaker The Lace Maker
Unknown imitator of Vermeer
Oil on canvas, 44 x 40 cm.
National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.

In June 1927, Captain" Harold R. Wright, a young Englishman who was employed at a paint factory, posed as war hero and ultimately styled himself as a cosmopolitan art connoisseur, arrived in Berlin with an unknown Dutch painting called The Lace Maker. Wright presented the picture, which he claimed he had found in an Amsterdam antique shop, to Bode who declared it to be a "genuine, perfect and very characteristic work of Jan Vermeer of Delft." It was bought in 1928 by Andrew Mellon through Duveen.

Each time a new Vermeer was discovered, it sparked rounds of coverage in the art press. In 1927, Seymour de Ricci, an English-born bibliographer and historian, penned an ecstatic essay about the picture lauding it as an "infinitely charming work." He wrote, "it was not without emotion that I held, in my hands, this precious canvas. At leisure, I made it reflect in the setting sun, and little by little the beauties of detail showed up beneath my eyes. The analysis of a work so complete in its simplicity demands some patience from the collector. The eye is seized firstly by the impression of the ensemble, by the grace of the subject, by the general harmony of the tones."

Other than Wilhelm Bode, the painting was attributed to Vermeer by two authorities of the State Museums, Berlin: Max Jacob Friedländer and Hermann Boss. Eduard Plietzsch has suggested that it was perhaps identical with the Woman Making Lace, sold at the 1696 auction of paintings by Vermeer (Hofstede de Groot, No. 12-b), of which there is no further record.

The American painter, Philip Hale
Self Portrait
Philip Leslie Hale
c. 1915
Oil on canvas, 76.83 x 63.82 cm.
MFA, Boston

Philip Hale wrote, "while it hardly measures up to the very high standards set by the Louvre Lacemaker," the "painting has engaging qualities of design and execution. Several of the details, notably the cushion, the dish, the pearl, the frame for lace making, are well painted. The hands are somewhat weak and the mouth not very well made. The handling lacks the crispness of the Girl with the Red Hat. The face is pretty but painted weakly, whereas one thinks of Vermeer's heads as generally plain but strongly painted. The still life, which is good, may be contrasted with that in the Louvre Lacemaker. In the latter the handling is not so loose as in this one, but is firm and almost blocky." He noted the resemblance with the girl in Vermeer's Brunswick Girl with the Wine Glass.

When Mellon donated the Lace Maker to the National Gallery of art, it was labeled as a Vermeer although skeptics were heard as early as 1933. In 1937, it relabeled as a "Follower of Vermeer" and in 1978, an "Imitator of Vermeer." Both of Mellon's false Vermeers, The Smiling Girl and The Lace Maker, are no longer on public display.

Arthur K. Wheelock Jr., the curator of Dutch painting in the National Gallery of Art, believes that both works were forged by Van Meegeren's old mentor, Theo van Wijngaarden. Edward Dolnick, author of The Forger's Spell: A True Story of Vermeer, Nazis, and the Greatest Art Hoax of the Twentieth Century (2009),Edward Dolnick, The Forger's Spell: A True Story of Vermeer, Nazis, and the Greatest Art Hoax of the Twentieth Century (New York: Harper Perennial, 2009). advances the two works were a collaborative effort by Van Wijngaarden and Van Meegeren. Dolnick hypothesizes that Van Meegeren may have done the painting and Van Wijngaarden the aging, being an able restorer who was familiar with the nuances of aged paintings. Van Wijngaarden also had a proven talent for finding potential buyers for forged works or art, which Van Meegeren lacked.

Portrait of Simon Decker (?)

Portrait of a Man erroneously attributed to Johannes Vermeer
Portrait of Simon Decker (?)
Unknown artist
Oil on canvas, signed "IVM"
58.4 x 45.7 cm.
Formerly in the private collection of
Ernest W. Savory, Bristol, England

This painting was sold at a London salesroom, 1922, and was subsequently acquired by the present owner [Ernest W. Savory]. When the old varnish and certain overpainting were removed the monogram "I V M" was discovered in the background.

Certain Netherlands authorities, when consulted regarding the painting, would not concede that it could be by Vermeer, but asserted that it is a characteristic self-portrait by Adriaen van de Velde.

M. Guiffrey, director of the Louvre, on the other hand, Dr. Hans Holler, editor of Thieme's Dictionary of Painters and a late director of the Buda-Pesth Gallery, Sir Joseph Duveen, Mr. P. S. Konody, Mr. Arthur Ruck and Mr. E. V. Lucas were unanimous in pronouncing this a work by Vermeer of Delft. There came, furthermore, into Mr. Savory's hands a copy of an old wood engraving of this subject showing below the lower left corner the engraved line: "J. Van der Meer pinxit,"; and on the right, partly obliterated through a tear in the paper, the name of the engraver,"—noboni, Sc." Vermeer's monogram appears in this engraving exactly where it figures in the painting itself. On the paper mount, in pencil, is inscribed the name of Simon Decker, who has been assumed to be the sitter. Simon Decker was a sexton at Delft and lost his life in 1654 in the explosion in which Carel Fabritius was killed.

Monograms on paintings are not conclusive, as they can be forged. An expert restorer, however, who handled the painting in question has certified that the repainting which he removed was at least a century old. As the monogram was found under the repainting it must be older than the early nineteenth century, at which time Vermeer had no reputation and hence was unlikely to be selected by a forger for exploitation.

The technique of this canvas has been thought to be like that of the Portrait of a Woman at Budapest, but it can hardly be said to have the convincing rectitude of the latter, the meticulous and yet broad treatment of the accessories or the beautiful separation of light and shade on the face. The Bristol work, nevertheless, has opalescent grays which are quite Vermeeresque.

If, indeed, this Head of a Young Man is by Vermeer, and if the sitter is Decker, the Delft sexton, it must be a very early work, painted before 1654. Its being a youthful performance might account for its not being of first quality. A photograph of the painting was published in Illustrated London Neivs, November 15, 1924, and Literary Digest, December 13, 1924. The latter periodical published also, from Houbraken's "Groote Schouberg," an engraved self-portrait of Adriaen van de Velde, which, as studied by Dr. de Groot, seemed to justify a belief that this man is identical with the Young Man of the Savory Collection.

drawn from:
Vermeer, Phillip Hale, London, 1937Philip L. Hale, Jan Vermeer of Delft (Boston: Small, Maynard and Co., 1913; revised ed. by F. Coburn and R. Hale, Boston: Hale, Cushman & Flint, 1937), 161.

This painting was sold (for the last time?) for 23 100 new french francs in Amsterdam in 1961, and reproduced in Connaissance des Art, n° 117, novembre 1961, p. 112, with the following capton: "Portrait du sacristain Simon Decker, de Delft. toile 45.5 x 56.5 cm., par Jan Vermeer (1632–1675). On trouve, dans cette oeuvre de jeunesse, la palette du peintre dont les toiles les plus caractéristiques, ses scènes d'intérieur, demeurenet rarissimes. Paul Brandt : 6 juin 1961.")

Magdalen at the Foot of the Cross

Mary Magdalen Praying at the Cross erroneously attributed to Johannes Vermeer
Magdalen at the Foot of the Cross
Unknown artist
Oil on canvas, 154 x 135 cm.
Major F. H. Fawkes collection, Otley

In 1935, this painting was exhibited in Rotterdam as an authentic work of Vermeer (cat. no. 79a, Vermeer, oorsprong en invloed. Fabritius, de Hooch, de Witte, 9 July–9 October). The exhibition catalogue states that it was probably painted earlier than Vermeer's signed Christ in the House of Mary and Martha.

It had previously been attributed by some to Georges de La Tour.

M. Jean Decoen, in The Burlington Magazine (September, 1935), reviewing the Boijmans Museum Exhibition, expressed the opinion that it was "a new example of Vermeer's Italianate period" ..."certainly a Vermeer."

On the other hand, Alfred Scharf wrote in The Connoisseur (November, 1935): "It is surprising to find classed as an early work of Vermeer a picture of Mary Magdalene at the foot of the Cross, from the Collection of Major Fawkes at Otley. Neither in its feeling nor in its technique can I find any relation to Vermeer's work. On the contrary, the classicism of the whole pose, as well as the elegance of the handling, point to the brush of a French Caravaggist, to an artist of tenebrist tendencies such as Robert Tournier."Lopez, Jonathan. The Man Who Made Vermeers: Unvarnishing the Legend of Master Forger Han van Meegeren. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2008, 104.

Lawrence Gowing found the work had an affinity to the Saint Praxedes, which some Vermeer specialists believe is a youthful work by Vermeer. "It is her natural counterpart, a tender, in fact exquisite image of the Magdalen, dressed in orange-pink, crouched at the foot of the Cross. It figured in the exhibition Vermeer Oorsprong en Invloed at Rotterdam in 1935.Dirk Hannema, Vermeer: Oorsprong ennvloed. Fabritius, De Hooch, De Witte, Rotterdam (Museum Boymans), 1935. When it was seen to be unlike Vermeer's characteristic work it was never, I think, considered in relation to him again. But it is not at all unlike Saint Praxedes, and a devout young painter might naturally think ot the two saints together; their feasts are celebrated on successive days. The picture hangs in Farnley Hall in Yorkshire where it is unnoticed by authorities onj. M. W. Turner."Lawrence Gowing, Vermeer (Oakland CA: University of California Press, 1997), 11.

Young Woman with a Blue Hat

Young Woman with a Blue Hat, Unknown imitator of Vermeer
Young Woman with a Blue Hat
Unknown imitator of Vermeer
Oil on canvas, 23.5 x 21.3 cm.
Private collection of Countess Magrit Barthany Castagnola, Switzerland

After being rejected by Duveen, this work was sold in 1930 as a Vermeer to Baron Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza, a noted industrialist and art collector, by the dealer Paul Cassirer, Berlin. Thyssen-Bornemisza later became suspicious of the work and returned it to the gallery.

The painting was accepted by Eduard Plietzsch. Ary de Vries called it "a fake." The great art connoisseur Max Friedlände accepted the picture and is said to have called it "splendid." Wilhelm Martin and Frederik Schmidt-Degener, poet and Rijksmuseum director, concurred.

The painting is sometimes today called "The Greta Garbo Vermeer," for its resemblance to Garbo film posters.

It seems disconcerting that such a work with an obviously twentieth-century hat might have successfully passed as a Vermeer. Jonathan Lopez notes that the face of the picture bears "a striking resemblance to movie posters for Anna Christie and Wild Orchids—an interesting and apparently effective subliminal appeal to the eyes of the 1930s, since the anachronism blended completely unnoticed with the prevailing tastes of the day."Hale, Philip. Vermeer. London: N/A, 1937, 209. Although Van Meegeren had been associated with the picture, the infamous forger name never confessed to have painted it.

A Boy Playing a Flute

The Young Shepard, AnonymousThe Young Shepard or A Boy Playing a Flute
Unknown painter
c. 1630
Oil on canvas, 113 x 90 cm.
Whereabouts unknown

This work was exhibited by R.E.A. Wilson, a London dealer, under the name of Johannes Vermeer, although afterwards it was appreciated as a work by Solomon de Bray  (1597 –1664).

A Maid Rinsing a Glass

A Maid Rinsing a Glass, Anonymous
A Maid Rinsing a Glass A Maid Rinsing a Glass
Anonymous, Dutch?
17th century?
Oil on canvas, c. 86.4 x 60.9 cm.
Whereabouts unknown

This painting depicts a maid dressed in a pink dress with a greenish underskirt as she pours water from a pitcher, which she has just filled at a pump, into a glass that she holds with her foot. The work belonged to the collection of Charles-Leon Cardon of Brussels and was catalogued in June 1921 as being by Jan Vermeer van Delft. The painting features a monogram of Vermeer on the left.

Portrait of an Unknown Man

Portrait of an Unknown Man
Attributed to Nicolaes Maes
Oil on canvas, 73 x 59.5 cm.
Musée Royal de Beaux-Arts, Brussels

This picture had been tied to the names of various important Dutch painters including Rembrandt and Nicolaes Maes. The Portrait of a Woman in the Szépművészeti Múzeum presents similarities in style and mood and was likewise attributed to Vermeer for a brief period. The painting belonged to the collection of P. Norton in London (1836) and then to the collection of Humphry Ward (1888) in the same city. In 1898, it was sold to the Parisian antique dealer Sedelmyer as a work of Maes. It was resold in Paris until it was acquired for 19,700 francs as a Nicolaes Maes by the Musée Royal des Beaux-Arts, Brussels in 1900. At the time, the picture bore a signature of Rembrandt which, however, was discovered to be false.

The young man is garbed in black with plain white collar from from which a small gold ornament hangs. He has a large black hat, high-crowned. He is seated in a lion-headed chair, holding his gloves in his hand. In 1905, A. J. Wauters of the Musée Royal de Beaux-Arts believed that the particular mode of painting the lion-headed chair, was so peculiar to Vermeer that it "almost the equivalent of a signature."

In 1922, it was reattributed to Vermeer and exhibited in 1935 in Rotterdam under that name (cat. no. 89a, Vermeer, oorsprong en invloed. Fabritius, de Hooch, de Witte, 9 July–9 October).

Some critics perceived a resemblance between the sitter and that of the sitter of an etching which was then believed to be based on a painting by Vermeer but was later discovered to be based on a self-portrait by Michiel van Musscher.

In 1949, it was catalogued as a Carl Fabritius. The museum currently attributes the painting to Nicolaes Maes.

Study of a Head

Head of a Young ManStudy of a Head
Oil on paper
Berlin, Private collection

Study of a Head features a head of a boy in full face, the light coming from the left. He wears a broad black felt hat and a broad white collar. This work, most likely a study, was described in Hofstede de Groot’s catalogue, under 46 b.C. Hofstede de Groot, Beschreibendes und kritisches Verzeichnis der Werke der hervorragendsten Holländischer Maler des XVII. Jahrhunderts, nach dem Muster von John Smith's Catalogue raisonné zusammengestellt (Esslingen a. N./ Paris: Paul Neff Verlag/ Kleinberger, 1907-1928), 10 vols., vol. 1 (Vermeer). In 1913, Philip Hale wrote, "It is rather hard to see how anyone could ever have supposed this head to be by Vermeer. There is neither the square-touch handling nor yet the small pointille touch which we have come to associate with Vermeer. The high lights on the lips are not at all in his manner. The light and shade are not understood. Note the forehead, where the edge of the shadow is ill studied, the penumbra being of the same value as the shadow. This is a fault which Vermeer never committed. The reflected lights are exaggerated and their edges made too sharp against the dark hat. The picture seems quite obviously not by Vermeer."Philip L. Hale, Jan Vermeer of Delft (Boston: Small, Maynard and Co., 1913, xx.

Portrait of a Woman

Portrait of a Young Woman erroneously attributed to Johannes Vermeer Portrait of a Woman
Willem Drost
c. 1653–1654
Oil on canvas, 82 x 65 cm.
Szépművészeti Múzeum, Budapest

This portrait of a woman was attributed to Vermeer by Hofstede de Groot and Eduard Plietzsch. It was exhibited in Rotterdam, 1935 in as a Vermeer (cat. no. 80, "Vermeer, oorsprong en invloed. Fabritius, de Hooch, de Witte, " 9 July–9 October).

The picture was originally a part of the Esterhazy Collection, Vienna, of 486 pictures which in 1865 was purchased en bloc by the Hungarian government for the National Picture Gallery, Budapest, for 1,300,000 florins. It shows a woman wears a small cap and a large white collar decorated with a knot of yellow silk. Her gown is of dark blue with white cuffs. On her right hand is a glove decked out with yellow ribbons. Her right hand holds a small fan. In the background, at the woman's left, is a table cover, reddish in hue, its pattern worked out in some detail. A chair is vaguely disclosed at her right. All we know of the sitter is that she was unmarried, which may be deduced from the positioning of the figure.

Until the middle of the 1890s it was attributed to Rembrandt although the brush handling and the color are quite different from his.

The attribution to Vermeer was first made by Abraham Bredius, and was afterward accepted by several writers, although others were doubtful. Hale found it suggestive of Vermeer. "The little bows are of the yellow which Vermeer loved and they are brushed in with the crisp square touch which he frequently used. The general tone is like his, as is the almost startling impression of lifelikeness which the work gives." The work is now believed to be by Willem Drost, an obscure but outstanding pupil of Rembrandt.

The Geographer

A young man sits, left in the picture, facing to the right. He has a loose cap and wears a grey gown faced with leopard skin. Against a globe leans a large open book. On a table, covered by a rug, are a compass and other instruments. The background is considerably concealed by a green curtain. A quadrant hangs from the ceiling. The rapt expression of concentration with which the young man looks at the spot on the globe where his left hand rests, while his right hand holds an open book, possibly descriptive of the place he is studying, is the picture's central motive. Signed and dated 1665

Thoré-Bürger assigned this painting, which was part of the collection of I. Pereire of Paris, to Vermeer and dated it to 1665. When in 1872, Pereire's collection was dispersed, it was sold for 4,000 francs. In 1898 it was auctioned for 8,500 francs in Antwerp (E. Kums) to Vicomte Bus de Gisigneis from Brussels, De Gisigneis' inheritor sold it to the renowned gallery René Gimpel dealer (and the brother-in-law of Joseph Duveen) from Paris. It was sold to E. J. Megnin through the antique dealer Jonas of New York, and is now in the San Francisco Museum of Fine Arts

The GeographerThe Geographer
Olivier van Deuren
Oil on panel, 48.7 x 36.8 cm.
San Francisco Museum of Fine Arts, San Francisco

Thoré imagined that Vermeer's signature could be read between the words written on the open book. In reality, three signatures were found, one of which covered the signature signaled by Thoré.While this painting was still in the possession of M. Pereire, Thoré saw it and who wrote, " It is dated 1665 but I have not yet been able to discover the signature if it is there." {Gazette des Beaux-Arts, April, 1864). The painting had been authenticated as a Vermeer by W. Martin (1935) and Wilhelm Valentiner (1936), as well as by Eduard Plietzsch and Philip Hale. After the signatures' removal, the painting was no longer attributed to Vermeer but to Olivier van Deuren (1666–1714). Van Deuren was born in Rotterdam, where he lived and worked, serving as an officer in the painters' guild on a number of occasions. Very few works by him are known today. One of the few works attributed to him is The Astronomer, painted circa 1685.

The painting was exhibited in Rotterdam, 1935 as a Vermeer (cat. no. 87, "Vermeer, oorsprong en invloed. Fabritius, de Hooch, de Witte" 9 July–9 October). The exhibition notes that it was attributed to Vermeer by Hofstede de Groot.

Man Smoking a Pipe

In 1941, the legendary connoisseur Bernard Berenson (1865–1959) wrote a letter to Edward Forbes, the then director of Harvard’s Fogg Museum in Boston, in which he expressed his feelings concerning a portrait of a Man Smoking a Pipe which Forbes had recently acquired for the museum from New York-based art dealer David Koetser. Beronson wrote, "I am not competent to make more than a guess, but I venture to ask you to put your expert on the inquiry whether it is not by Ver Meer van Delft. The reproduction mightily recalls that master. If I could see the original, I might feel less timid about my guess."

According to a label on the reverse, the painting came from the Argyle collection, and had been auctioned in London, and was attributed to Vermeer. It is not known if the well-connected Berenson already knew of this attribution to Vermeer, or merely feigned a brilliant educated guess to Forbes. If not, it is remarkable that the portrait was twice identified as a work by the illustrious artist from Delft. Of course, it should be noted that just four years beforehand, in 1937, the art world had been dazzled by the "discovery" of Vermeer's Supper at Emmaus, the notorious painting hailed as the masterpiece of the Golden Age, which was soon proven to be a fake by Van Meegeren. In 1941, the idea of discovering a Vermeer must have been as powerful as ever.

Self Portrait with a PipeSelf Portrait with a Pipe, attributed to Michael Sweerts
Self Portrait with a Pipe

attributed to Michael Sweerts
Oil on canvas 58 x 40 cm.
Cambridge (MA), Harvard Art Museums / Fogg Museum

Forbes did as Berenson had suggested and "put an expert on the inquiry," by the name of Jakob Rosenberg, professor of art history at Harvard and specialist in Dutch art. Following a thorough study Rosenberg published his conclusion in an article in the museum’s 1945 Bulletin. After discussing and then dismissing the suggestion that the work could be by Carel Fabritius (1622–1654), Rosenberg attributed the painting to Carel’s younger brother Barent Fabritius (1624–1673), quickly adding that this was first suggested by Frederik Johannes "Frits" Lugt (1884–1970), a self-taught collector and connoisseur of Dutch drawings and prints, during his visit to the museum. The idea was not so far-fetched, especially as Rosenberg drew attention to the likeness of the sitter with a portrait in Munich, which he attributed to either Carel or Barent (now considered a Self Portrait by Carel), and which, according to him, depicted Barent.

The attribution to Barent did not to last long. In 1953, the Fogg Museum was offered a portrait intitled Artist's Studio, by the Flemish artist Michael Sweerts (1618–1664). The resemblance between the two faces was so strong that it was presumed the Man Smoking a Pipe was by Sweerts as well. Seymour Slive, an eminent scholar of Dutch art, gave his blessing to the attribution in 1958, which lasted until 1990 when Leonard J. Slatkes changed the attribution yet again, this time to the little known Antwerp artist Jan van Dalen (in or before 1620–after 1662), and dated it to c. 1630. Although published again that same year as a Self Portrait by Sweerts in the Great Dutch Paintings from America exhibition catalog, the painting was listed among the rejected works in the catalogue raisonné on Sweerts that Rolf Kultzen published in 1996. Meanwhile, then Fogg curator Ivan Gaskell re-labeled the work as Sweerts in 1992, with the prefix "attributed to." This attribution has been maintained by the museum, and was adopted in the 2002 catalogue to the major Sweerts exhibition in Amsterdam, San Francisco and Hartford.

After a recent discovery in Italy of the a yet unknown prime version of the painting, the Fogg piece is now believed to be an autograph copy by Sweerts.

Lady with a Guitar

Until recently, the painting Lady with a Guitar at the Philadelphia Museum of Art was labeled as a "Copy after Vermeer" in the museum's catalogue. It was widely believed to have been the work of an unknown artist, likely from the 1800s. The painting, which has been part of the John G. Johnson collection since 1896, was acquired by the museum in 1933. When Johnson bought the painting in 1896, it had already been restored by an unknown artisan. Johnson then hired a restorer to remove the artisan's work, retouch, and re-varnish the canvas. The Philadelphia Museum of Art acquired the painting in 1933 from Johnson. Despite its striking resemblance to the undisputed original, The Guitar Player, housed in London's Kenwood House in London, the painting has never been displayed due to its poor condition.

However, in a groundbreaking lecture at the 2023 International Vermeer Symposium, former Rijksmuseum conservator Arie Wallert presented a technical analysis that challenges the painting's status as a mere copy. Wallert's study of the painting's materials and layering technique suggests that both works could indeed be by Vermeer. He found that the pigments used in Lady with a Guitar were consistent with those favored by Vermeer and that the dimensions of the two paintings are almost identical. In his investigation, tiny particles of expensive ultramarine, a pèigment which Vermeer favored, as well as commonplace lead-tin yellow, were detected; the latter was in use until about 1700. Wallert opines that the pigments in Lady with a Guitar were used in "combinations that nobody else used at the time."

This revelation aligns with seventeenth-century practices in Netherlandish workshops, where reproducing paintings was common. Wallert explained that artists often used a "parent" drawing to transfer outlines onto a canvas, a method that appears to have been employed in the creation of both versions of The Guitar Player.

Sasha Suda, the museum's director, sees the painting as a catalyst for future scholarly discussion and research. However, it is important to note that scientific evidence alone is insufficient for authentication. A painting's provenance and stylistic analysis must also support its attribution to a particular artist.

Drawn from: :
Vermeer, Phillip Hale, London, 1937
, 144-146.

A girl, whose smiling face is turned to her right, sits in the left part of the picture, playing a guitar. She is dressed in a yellow jacket trimmed with ermine and a white satin skirt. A landscape in a gold frame hangs behind her. On the right, below the head of the musical instrument, is a table with a blue cover. Canvas, 20% inches by 17% inches.

Mr. Henri Marceau, curator of the Johnson Collection, who has made a careful study of the available data regarding both the Johnson and the Iveagh pictures of a guitar player, with particular emphasis on the important fact that the Johnson picture is on canvas whereas the Iveagh picture is on panel, gives (1936) the Johnson picture's history, so far as it is known, as follows: "Formerly in the possession of Rt. Hon. W. Cowper-Temple, who lent it to the Old Masters Exhibition at Burlington House, London, 1871, (No. 266), where it was catalogued as by 'John Vandermeer van Delft.' The mistake has been made by writers who have dealt with the Iveagh Guitar Player of assuming that the picture lent by Rt. Hon. W. Cowper-Temple to the 1871 Exhibition was the Iveagh picture. The picture lent to that exhibition, however, as the catalogue of the exhibition clearly states, was a canvas, not a panel, and measured—again according to the catalogue—20 inches high by 18 inches wide, roughly the dimensions of the Johnson picture. Certainly no catalogue compiler's mistake could turn a canvas into a panel. From Rt. Hon. W. Cowper-Temple's possession, it apparently passed into the hands of M. de Gruyter, Amsterdam. Writing in 1896 M. Thore (W. Burger) states that this picture was in M. de Gruyter's possession and was for sale. Not being able to buy it himself M. Thore persuaded Monsieur J. H. C. Cremer, Brussels, to buy it. It then passed, I believe, to Henry L. Bischoffsheim, London, and thence, at a date not yet determined, to John G. Johnson, Philadelphia. Our records unfortunately do not give the date of acquisition of the picture. We know that it was in the Collection as early as 1907, but prior to that have no information."

Dr. W. R. Valentiner, who wrote the catalogue of the Johnson Collection, says, in a letter dated February 28, 1936, regarding the acquisition of the picture by Mr. Johnson: "He paid $10,000 for it and bought it from Sulley in London."

A painting with this title appears, after Vermeer's death, to have been in possession of his widow, and to have been one of two (the Love Letter, Beit Collection, being the other) with which the widow redeemed a debt of 617 florins. Whether this work was the Johnson Guitar Player or the one sometimes so called in the Iveagh Collection or perhaps some other painting, who can say? Further comment on this work will follow in the discussion of the Iveagh picture, the appearance of which, in the Iveagh Bequest in 1927, occasioned a controversy a contribution towards a possible settlement of which may be suggested in a letter written by Mr. Marceau, November 26, 1935, as follows: "Concerning the pedigree of the Johnson Collection Guitar Player, attributed to Jan Vermeer, there is perhaps no picture in the collection offering greater opportunity for controversy than this one and I may say perhaps no other picture here has given rise to so much conflicting and inaccurate information. For many years the Johnson picture was believed to be the one which, together with the Love Letter, was sold by Vermeer's widow to redeem a debt of some 617 florins. It was also identified as having appeared in a sale in Amsterdam in 1696 when a number of other Vermeers were sold. When Lord Iveagh's picture came to the British nation by bequest, it developed that his version of the same subject threw some doubt on the pedigree of the Johnson picture. It is my opinion that this whole question has never been satisfactorily solved. We have tentatively assigned the Johnson picture as a contemporary copy of the picture in the Iveagh Collection. Although I have not seen the Iveagh picture a comparison of the photographs would indicate that the English version is the better. There are certain passages in our picture here which are disturbing if they are to be considered as the work of Vermeer. It is true, however, that our picture was restored probably prior to Mr. Johnson's purchase of it and some little work has been done on it since he acquired it. This might conceivably account for the thinness of the paint surfaces which are not at all characteristic of Vermeer's method. It has been suggested by one authority that our version dates a generation later than Vermeer but in this I do not agree. It is probably a contemporary work, done perhaps by someone in the close circle of Vermeer and it may even contain some of the painter's own workmanship. It is painted on canvas, and is not signed, despite many statements to the contrary."

The Guitar Player , Unknown artist , Late seventeenth century, Oil on canvas, 52.5 x 45.6 cm., Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia Lady with a Guitarr
Unknown artist
Late seventeenth century
Oil on canvas, 52.5 x 45.6 cm.
Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia

A painting with this title appears, after Vermeer's death, to have been in possession of his widow, and to have been one of two (The Love Letter, Beit Collection, being the other) with which the widow redeemed a debt of 617 florins. Whether this work was the Johnson Guitar Player or the one sometimes so called in the Iveagh Collection or perhaps some other painting, who can say? Further comment on this work will follow in the discussion of the Iveagh picture, the appearance of which, in the Iveagh Bequest in 1927, occasioned a controversy a contribution towards a possible settlement of which may be suggested in a letter written by Mr. Marceau, November 26, 1935, as follows:

"Concerning the pedigree of the Johnson Collection Guitar Player, attributed to Jan Vermeer, there is perhaps no picture in the collection offering greater opportunity for controversy than this one and I may say perhaps no other picture here has given rise to so much conflicting and inaccurate information.

"For many years the Johnson picture was believed to be the one which, together with The Love Letter, was sold by Vermeer's widow to redeem a debt of some 617 florins. It was also identified as having appeared in a sale in Amsterdam in 1696 when a number of other Vermeers were sold. When Lord Iveagh's picture came to the British nation by bequest, it developed that his version of the same subject threw some doubt on the pedigree of the Johnson picture. It is my opinion that this whole question has never been satisfactorily solved.

"We have tentatively assigned the Johnson picture as a contemporary copy of the picture in the Iveagh Collection. Although I have not seen the Iveagh picture a comparison of the photographs would indicate that the English version is the better. There are certain passages in our picture here which are disturbing if they are to be considered as the work of Vermeer.

"It is true, however, that our picture was restored probably prior to Mr. Johnson's purchase of it and some little work has been done on it since he acquired it. This might conceivably account for the thinness of the paint surfaces which are not at all characteristic of Vermeer's method. It has been suggested by one authority that our version dates a generation later than Vermeer but in this I do not agree. It is probably a contemporary work, done perhaps by some one in the close circle of Vermeer and it may even contain some of the painter's own workmanship.

"It is painted on canvas, and is not signed, despite many statements to the contrary.

Hale, himself an accomplished painter, listed five reasons which would cause any observant portrait painter to concede the superiority of the Iveagh head:

1. The background is brought very light against the shadow of the head. This is a motive which Vermeer often used. He painted the wall, in this instance, as it looked by way of contrast instead of figuring out how it ought to be.

2. The arrangement of the hair, which is not unlike that of the Louvre Lace Maker and the Beit Girl at a Spinet, is one which is more usual with Vermeer than is that in the Johnson work, in which it is parted in the middle, braided and wound around the head. The Lady with a Lute, to be sure, in the Metropolitan Museum, has her hair tightly tied up, but there seem to be more of Vermeer's women who have carelessly flowing locks than of those with hair smoothly arranged. It may be added that Mr. Paul Ettinger, writing in the Burlington Magazine, February, 1928, says of the Johnson Guitar Player: "I have always been struck by the style in which the lady's hair is dressed, a style quite unknown in Holland during the seventeenth century."

3. The manner in which a high light on the frame shows through the hair is decidedly a Vermeer touch. No copyist would be likely to think of doing it that way. It could be done only from nature or by closely following a painted work. This point alone seems to prove that the Iveagh painting could not have been copied from the Johnson one; it is humanly possible, though improbable, that some one copying vice versa thought the high light on the frame a false touch and omitted it.

4. The light and shade of the Iveagh head, though not altogether satisfying, is more in Vermeer's manner than that of the Johnson head. The half-tone is manifestly too dark, as, however, it notably is in the Soldier and the Laughing Girl, Frick Collection. The manner of making the nose and forehead is more like Vermeer's particular kind of "wrongness" than is the hesitant fumbling in the modeling of the head of the Johnson picture.

5. Comparison of good photographic reproductions of both pictures gives a sense of a superior crispness of the geometric forms throughout the Iveagh work. In this, as if by an intellectual effort, the precise shape of triangle or oblong of tone has been registered. The same shape, more generalized, with its edges less perceptively studied, will be found to reappear in the Johnson picture. Any who have made copies of, or imitations after, paintings by great masters will recall their own efforts to avoid this ever-present liability to lose the specific quality of the master's "solid geometry."

Portrait of a Woman

Head of a Young Woman erroneously attributed to Johannes Vermeer
Portrait of a Woman
Unknown artist
Oil on canvas, 22 x 17.7 cm.
Whereabouts unknown

This painting was sold by antique dealer Bottwiesser, Berlin, to Mr. and Mrs. E. W. Edwards, Cincinnati. It was said to have been owned at one time in Norway.

Wilhelm Bode, Max Friedländer, and Hofstede de Groot expressed themselves in favor of Vermeer's authorship.

Bode, on July 24, 1924, wrote, "An unquestionable and most characteristic and delightful work by Jan Vermeer of Delft, from his best period."

Friedländer thought it "agrees entirely in style, color, and conception with this world-famous master's work, showing his cool and delightfully pearly lustre."

In September, 1924, De Groot wrote that he considered the painting "an authentic and characteristic work by Johannes Vermeer of Delft."

In 1930, W. R. Valentiner wrote, "This, in my opinion, while it is of the period, is surely not by Vermeer, and I believe that which has been told to me from several sides—that it was cut out of a larger composition which looked very little like Vermeer when it was complete—is most likely true."

Philip Hale included it among the possible works by Vermeer but offered no comment of his own.

A Girl with a Blue Bow

Girl with a Blue Bow erroneously attributed to Johannes Vermeer
A Girl with a Blue Bow
Han van Meegeren
c. 1924
Gelatin-glue medium and pigment over an obscured 17th-century painting fragment, 21 x 45.7 cm.
The Hyde Collection, Glens Falls, New York

The painting was first reported for the first time as in the collection of Charles E. Carruthers, Esq., Batheaston, Somerset, England. It was catalogued (No. 62) as a Vermeer at Christie's, London, on March 23, 1934, and described under the title "An Auctioned 'Ugly Duckling' becomes a Swan: a Vermeer Revealed," by Mr. Frank Davis in Illustrated London News, on April 20, 1935.

Davis reported that this painting was placed on public view, May 1, 1935, at an exhibition of Old Masters' Paintings, Gallery of Mr. A. F. Reyre, 22, Old Bond Street. He adds: "Very careful cleaning, relining and conservative restoration have brought this delicious and sensitive portrait of a girl (possibly one of the painter's own daughters) to its present satisfactory condition."

Writing of this picture in the June, 1935 edition of Burlington Magazine, Dr. Tancred Borenius says: "The character of the craquelure throughout the picture offers in itself a very strong argument in favor of Vermeer's authorship; and the same is true of the handling of the paint, notably in such passages as the lace edging the collar. Apart from these details of technique, the whole scheme of color, its power of luminosity and vivacity of sparkle (in passages such as the ear-rings and the hair-ribbon) strongly suggest no one but Vermeer; and in its utter simplicity of disposition, the picture has a sense of bulk and imposing architectural construction, which point in one direction alone."

On September 27, 1935, Wilhem Valentiner wrote, "I consider The Head of a Girl, now belonging to Reyre in London, an original."

In 1935, this painting was exhibited in Rotterdam as an authentic work Vermeer (cat. no. 89, "Vermeer, oorsprong en invloed. Fabritius, de Hooch, de Witte," 9 July–9 October). Hofstede de Groot (1930) believed it was by Vermeer.

The young woman has brown eyes and hair. Under the white collar is a yellowish dress. The blue ribbon on the breast is echoed by a blue hair-ribbon.

In 1924, Harold Wright showed this painting to Wilhem von Bode, who however, declared it was not by Vermeer. Bode was frequently called on to authenticate paintings that were presumably by the hand some great master in the hopes of cashing in on the spectacularly rising prices of the art market in those years.

The painting was also presented to the Duveen gallery by an Englishman who had claimed the picture had belonged to his family for many yeas. The painting was x-rayed: no negative evidence turned up but it was rejected the same.

After Bode's death, it was authenticated by Wilhem Valentiner, Bode's successor at the Kaiser Friedrich Museum, Berlin. The picture ended up in an American private collection.Lopez, Jonathan. "Van Meegeren's Early Vermeers." Apollo, July-August 2008.

Bode was an enormously influential and controversial German art historian, director of the Kaiser Friedrich Museum in Berlin and director general of the Royal Prussian Museums. He was "among the first museum directors to court private collectors, advising them freely in hopes of securing their collections, which often happened. Bode's errors in attribution were as high profile as his successes."Sorenson, Lee. "Bode, [Arnold] Wilhelm ('von' after 1914)." Dictionary of Art Historians. https://arthistorians.info/bodew He had worked "hand in glove with dealers his entire career, trading favors to get the artworks he wanted for his…Kaiser Friedrich museum, using his power to give or withhold certificates as leverage…"Sorenson, Lee. "Bode, [Arnold] Wilhelm ('von' after 1914)." Dictionary of Art Historians

Jonathan Lopez, the American writer, art historian and Van Meegeren expert, suspects that forgers had deliberately targeted Bode because they had come close to understanding Bode's reasons for accepting or turning down specific paintings.Lopez, Jonathan. The Man Who Made Vermeers: Unvarnishing the Legend of Master Forger Han van Meegeren. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2008.

The painting is currently in The Hyde Collection, and is catalogued as by Han van Meegeren, in the "style of Vermeer."

Girl in a Blue Dress and Yellow Cloak

Portrait of a Young Girl erroneously attributed to Johannes Vermeer
Head of a Girl
Unknown imitator of Vermeer
Oil on canvas, 19 1/2 x 15 1/2 in.
Whereabouts unknown

This painting was sold to Thyssen-Bornemisza as a Vermeer by the art dealer Paul Casssirer, Berlin.

The Frick Library notes that is probably the Girl in a Blue Dress and Yellow Cloak was once mentioned on the art market by a London art dealer in 1931. A photograph of this picture was accompanied by translations of letters from Gustave Gluck, Dr. W. Martin, and Cornelis Hofstede de Groot, all stating that in their opinion this is a genuine work by Jan Vermeer of Delft, a version of the portrait in the Arenburg Collection. De Vries listed in 1939 as a "poor version of the portrait formerly in the Arenburg Collection, Brussels." Ary de Vries called it "a fake."

It was accepted by Eduard Plietzsch  (1886–1961) as authentic. During World War II, Plietzsch worked for Nazi art agent Kajetan Mühlmann in The Hague, handling inventory and selection of stolen art for the Führermuseum in Linz. He was implicated in the confiscation of the Mannheimer Collection and the sale of the Mendelssohn Collection. After the war, Plietzsch was taken into custody by the British and investigated by the Art Looting Investigation Unit, which found that he had also advised Seyss-Inquart, a Nazi official later executed for war crimes. Despite these associations, Plietzsch resumed his career as an art historian post-war. Historian Jonathan Petropoulos notes that Plietzsch destroyed all his correspondence before the Nazis' defeat.

Ary de Vries called it "a fake."

The Minuet

The Minuet erroneously attributed to Johannes Vermeer
The Minuet
Unknown artist
Oil on canvas, 60 x 45 cm.
Gimplel Antiques (?)

Now in a private collection in New York, this picture comes from Skelmorlie Castle, the collection of W. A. Coats, a director of a thread manufacturing company in Paisley, who had purchased Vermeer's Christ in the House of Martha and Mary after Vermeer's signature was discovered in 1901. In 1927, The Minuet was exhibited at the Royal Society of Artists in London, as a work by Vermeer. The painting appears to resemble the manner of Rudolf de Jongh, Jacob van Loo and Hendrick van der Burch. In 1929, Wilhelm R. Valentiner attributed it to the Delft painter Hendrick van der Burgh (1627–after 1664). In the case that Valentiner's hypothesisW. R. Valentiner, "Pieter de Hooch. Part One," Art in America 15 (Dec. 1926): 57–58. is correct, Ludwig Goldscheider presumed it would constitute strong evidence that Vermeer was Van der Burch's apprentice. Although generally in a good state of conservation, it shows various repaintings, as well as having been relined and reduced on all sides.

Stylistically, the picture has been compared to works by Ludolph de Jongh, Jacob van Loo, and Hendrick van der Burgh. Even though, criticism had excluded the painting from the catalog of the painter from Delft, Lawrence Gowing observed that the Minuet has "points of resemblance to the Diana and her Companions." He wrote, "It is not impossible that evidence might emerge which would enable us to connect The Minuet with the unknown juvenilia of Vermeer himself."Lawrence Gowing, Vermeer (Oakland CA: University of California Press, 1997), reprint edition, 95.


An Old Woman with a Reel

An Old Woman with a Reel., Unknown artist
An Old Woman with a Reel
Unknown artist
Oil on canvas, 130 x 110 cm.
Private collection, Genevra (?)

This painting was signaled by Charles Eastlake, the director of the London National Gallery, to Thoré- Bürger, Eastlake maintained that, however it was not good enough for the National Gallery. It had been originally signaled to Eastlake by Phillips. Eastlake was struck by the abstract luminosity of the background wall which, had there not been object hanging on the wall, he would have mistaken for an open sky. Waagner was in favor of the attribution to Vermeer. Thoré-Bürger put the picture on the London art market where it was acquired by Henry Ward. Ward then ceded it to a private collector in Geneva. De Vries believed it was painted by an anonymous seventeenth-century painter. Only Blum, in 1946, considered it authentic, likely a painted within a few years of the Diana and her Companions.

Thoré-Bürger saw in the upper left-hand object on the wall, Vermeer's typical monogram.

Seated Young Peasant Woman

class="imagehold250"> false drawing attributed to Johannes Vermeer
Seated Young Peasant Woman
Unknown artist
Drawing, black chalk, white highlights,
red ochre, on light blue paper,
25.5 x 16.5 cm.
Kunstsammlungen zu Weimar, Graphische

This drawing bears a large monogram on the foot warmer which appears similar to those of Vermeer. There exist no drawings securely attributed to the Delft artist. However, it seems to be drawn with a different colored chalk from the rest of the drawing. It is more likely that it is a work of Cornelis Bega or one of his Harlem contemporaries.

Young Woman Seated at the Virginals

Young WOman at the Virginals, Johannes Vermeer (?)
A Young Woman Seated at the Virginals
Attributed to Johannes Vermeer
c. 1670
Oil on canvas, 25.2 x 20 cm.
Private collection, New York

During the initial decades which followed its first publication in 1904, this picture was universally accepted and published as an autograph work by Vermeer. Then, following the dramatic events of the affair of the Van Meegeren forgeries, Ary Bob de Vries, the then Director of the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam and the recognized leading scholar on Vermeer, expressed doubts about the authenticity of the picture.

Walter Liedtke, who curated the comprehensive Vermeer and the Delft School exhibition (New York and London in 2001), decided at the very last minute to include in that exhibition as one of the end pieces although it was not included in the catalogue.

Only during the last decade, since the picture was brought back into contact with the scholarly community, has it been examined seriously. Now, after more than 10 years of extensive research by a team of leading scholars, the painting has now been proposed as a secure addition to Vermeer's limited oeuvre. Not all scholars, however, are in agreement.

The following is a brief account of the painting's history.

  • The Young Woman Seated at a Virginal is presumable painted by Vermeer, c. 1670.
  • The picture is documented for the first time in 1904, when it was published in the preliminary catalogue by Wilhelm von Bode of the collection of Alfred Beit, a South African-born diamond magnate who rivaled the great early 20th-century art acquisitions of Americans such as Frick and Mellon.
  • Before and during the World War II, it is unanimously recognized by scholars, including Hofstede de Groot, Ary de Vries, Eduard Plietzsch and Ludwig Goldscheider.
  • Following the dramatic Van Meegeren affair of Vermeer forgeries, De Vries, the Director of the Rijksmuseum and leading Vermeer scholar, expresses doubts about the authenticity of the picture published in 1948. De Vries changes his mind, in favor of the painting, and writes several letters saying that if his book were to go into a third edition he would rehabilitate the picture.
  • When Beit dies, the picture passes to his brother, Otto Beit, and then to the latter's son, Sir Alfred Beit, who eventually, in 1960, places the picture on consignment with a London dealer.
  • Baron Frédéric Rolin of Brussels, an occasional collector of Old Masters and dealer in tribal art, sees it and falls immediately in love with. Aware of the doubtful attribution to Vermeer, he acquires it in exchange four works from his collection, paintings by Klee, Signac, Bonnard and Riopelle.
  • Lawrence Gowing (1972) and Christopher Wright (1976) continue to accept it, but others remain skeptical.
  • In 1993, the auction house Sotheby's is approached by Baron Rolin, with a request to undertake new research on the painting.
  • A complete scientific study is begun in 1995 by Libby Sheldon of University College London, in collaboration with her colleague Catherine Hassall, and in 1997 Nicola Costaras of the Victoria and Albert Museum joins this team. The investigation demonstrates that the picture is unquestionably seventeenth-century in origin and also that its technical composition is consistent with Vermeer's known working methods. In particular, the composition of the ground layers is found to be entirely comparable with other works by the artist, and the pigments used were also appropriate.
  • Rolin dies in 2002, and the painting is offered for sale by his heirs.
  • On July 7, 2004, Sotheby's auctions the painting to an unknown bidder for $30 million, many times more than the London auction house's estimate of $5.4 million.
  • Two days later, the British art critic Brian Sewell rejected the painting peremptorily in a scathing article describing it as "so damaged and abraded that only modern restoration makes it fit to see" and that the picture will join the many twentieth-century "false attributions and downright forgeries enthusiastically attested by the experts of the day as an object of derision—£16.2 million is monumental proof of folly, not authenticity."
  • The painting is shown briefly at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (11 August, 2004–1 March, 2005).
  • The buyer finally turns out to be the number-one suspect, Steve Wynn, the immensely rich (as of March 2012, Wynn is the 491st richest man in the world with a net worth of $2.5 billion) Las Vegas casino mogul and art collector.
  • The painting disappears in Wynn's main office.
  • In 2008, the maverick art historian Benjamin Binstock declared that the Rolin work, along with other five Vermeers, had been painted by Maria Vermeer, the artist's daughter and "secret apprentice." Binstock bases his maverick hypothesis on perceived inconsistencies in technique, materials, artistic level of the Rolin and other six works, and on a systematic account of Vermeer's family members as models.
  • In the same year, 2008, Walter Liedtke formally enlisted the Rolin picture as Vermeer's 36th work in a complete catalogue of the artist's paintings. The savvy Vermeer expert begins the catalogue essay stating that there exist "compelling reasons to accept this small picture as a late work by Vermeer."
  • It is exhibited in Tokyo along with other 6 other Vermeer's from August 2–December 14, 2008 (190–192, no. 31 and ill).
  • On October 26, 2008, Norm Clarke of the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports that the painting is sold by Wynn to an unknown buyer for $30 million.
  • The buyer is identified as a New York art collector and dealer in Dutch art.
  • The painting raises its head on December 29, 2009, in Gallery 14A in the European paintings galleries at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, It is labeled as from a "Private Collection" and is on view until June.
  • It is shown at Norfolk, Virginia 1 June, 2010–1 January, 2011 at the Chrysler Museum of Art.
  • It is shown in Cambridge, England, 5 October, 2011–15 January, 2012, at the Vermeer's Women: Secrets and Silence exhibition at The Fitzwilliam Museum (no. 28 and ill.).
  • It is shown in Rome, 27 September, 2012–20 January, 2013
    at the Vermeer. Il secolo d'oro dell'arte olandese at the Scuderie del Quirinale.
    (220, no. 51 and ill.).
  • It is shown in London, 26 June "8 September, 2013, at the
    Vermeer and Music: Love and Leisure in the Dutch Golden Age exhibition.

Saint Praxedis

St Praxedis
Saint Praxedis
Attributed to Johannes Vermeer
Oil on canvas, 101.6 x 82.6 cm.
National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo

The recent "discovery" of Saint Praxedis has been staunchly defended by the chief curator of Northern European painting of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, Arthur K. Wheelock Jr.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art's Walter Liedtke opined: "In my view the Saint Praxedis attributed to Vermeer (but widely doubted) is probably Florentine." The Mauritshuis' Ben Broos, after reviewing the history of fraud, forgery and incompetent attributions that plagued Vermeer's oeuvre in the 20th century, noted:

"Oddly enough, history has recently repeated itself. It happened in 1981, when Arthur K. Wheelock Jr. discovered Saint Praxedis. "The moment I saw her something clicked," says Wheelock. "My reaction was immediate. It wasn't the signature. On something like that, you just don't trust the signature …."

And indeed, the signature at lower left in the painting's present state is not authentic, and the translation on the right, "Meer naar Riposo" seems 'wishful thinking' at best. In my opinion, Saint Praxedis is the latest wrongly attributed Vermeer of the caliber of Van der Laan and Vrel."Ben Broos, "Vermeer; Malcie and Misconception," in exh. cat. Johannes Vermeer. Arthur K. Wheelock Jr. and Ben Broos, London and New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995, 30.

The work is a virtual duplicate of an original 1645 painting of the same name by the Florentine painter, Felice Ficherelli, whose nickname was "il Riposo." Saint Praxedis was a second-century Roman Christian who, along with her sister, Pudentiana, cared for the often-severed bodies of those martyred for their faith. By the late sixteenth century she was especially revered by the Jesuits, an order which lived next door to Vermeer's mother-in-law, Maria Thins, along the Oude Langendijk in Delft.

Gregor Weber and Pieter Roelofs, however, have recentlyu come to the defense of the authenticity of the painting and included it in the Rijksmuseum Vermeer retrospective (2023), as unequivocally by Vermeer. The mot recent technical examinations have been conducted to analyze the chemical components of the lead white used in the painting, comparing it to that found in Vermeer's works. Although the lead white corresponds to that used in Vermeer's Diana and her Nymphs, it was also commonly used in other Dutch paintings of the same period.

However, the signature on the painting is, according to recent analysis, on the original layer of paint, making it unlikely that it was added later for forgery, especially since Vermeer's fame didn't peak until the latter half of the 19th century. Weber argues that the subject matter, featuring St. Praxedis, aligns well with Jesuit beliefs and historical context. St. Praxedis was a Christian who transformed her parents' house into a church and provided refuge to persecuted Christians. This parallels the Jesuits' situation of living in hostile environments. The story is especially found in Jesuit collections and aligns with their focus on early Roman Catholic saints to legitimize their faith. A notable difference between the copy and the original painting is the addition of a crucifix in the saint's hands, emphasizing the idea that the martyrs were imitating Christ. This is consistent with the specific theological focus of the Jesuits on the veneration of the cross and imitation of Christ.

The painting is dated 1655, which is around the same time the Jesuit church was being renovated after the explosion of the Delft gunpowder magazine in 1654. Donations received at that time could have been used to buy or commission the painting.

Moreover, the painting also has a notation that is open to interpretation, possibly referring to a location or the original painter. Observations by Hans Slager, a Dutch archivist, suggest a link between Vermeer and Rhoon Castle (about 19 km. from Delft), based on similarities in the leaded windows in Vermeer's painted interiors and those in Rhoon, adding another layer of complexity to the painting's attribution, based on similarities in the leaded windows in Vermeer's painted interiors and those in Rhoon, adding another layer of complexity to the painting's attribution.

Thefts, forgeries & the Van Meegeren case


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