ISSUE 9 / July 2021
Was there only one Vermeer?
Work, authors, forgery and language:
Diary of an imposter.
by Aftermath laika
Van Meegeren understands that he can show that his paintings are not mass reproductions; they have the knowledge and justification that philology finds in traditions. His work, –as a novelty– is framed in a concrete event: the historical appearance of an artistic subject, something that must keep him safe from crime; and in any case –the work– be part of the same culture that he himself gives continuity. In the end, his comments are nothing more than an unstoppable historical and cultural succession.
Credits: Texts, Design and Illustration Aftermath Laika® / Buenos Aires 2021
Han van Meegeren waits in the cell. It is small and dark. He is restless. Ask to be moved to a more comfortable place. You need space. The Amsterdam Regional Court discusses its terms and accepts. They send him his tools, his paintings, the fabrics he has asked for and move him to a courtroom. For his part he will only have to paint and thus prove his innocence. However, in addition to producing a real object as evidence, you will need to discuss in court the nature of what we call representation. In any case, Ludwig Wittgenstein is right, the problem of meaning is the context, and if, by the way, that of words were their use, the difficulty will be how to explain the different uses of language. Han van Meegeren is not going to give up. He goes to bed quoting Wittgenstein from memory: 'There can be nothing hypothetical in our observations. All explanation has to disappear and only description has to take its place. And this description receives its light, that is, its purpose, from philosophical problems »
In a 1969 lecture, Michel Foucault develops in front of the members of the French Society of Philosophy the need to split the author of the work. That is, to discuss the notion of the author that critics have always tried to establish as that of a owner responsable, direct heir of what he publishes; when in fact, your reading should clear the work's relationship with the author and avoid reconstructing his experience […] rather, he must analyze the work in its architecture, in its intrinsic form and in the play of its internal relationships. Expressly, Foucault proposes to make a statute with the author with his absence: after all, his point aims to highlight a false status, precisely by means of a corpus of work that the author could never record as complete and personal, except in the citation of his own name, perhaps the only own, pure and simple having. Foucault further notes that the designation of Author as a denomination, it does not work like any other proper name.
To surround the subject of God, René Descartes discussed the concepts of certainty in the middle of 1600, and thus be able to establish that what was the object of intuition –the mathematical axioms– or deduction –the reasoned meditation– was really known and not merely believed. . Of course, the difference between knowing and believing becomes central: we call true or false according to immediate knowledge (that which does not need any justification) as long as the derived knowledge observes a justified belief. The problem of art is still a matter of faith. But how does a belief become justification? Descartes, who lives modestly in the Netherlands although actively participating in the Amsterdam Academy Until his death, he excused himself with the sciences: practical knowledge is not in itself knowledge.
El Marchand, who will we call Mr.Y He pours mineral water in two glasses and points to a tray with half a dozen triples of raw ham. The armchairs are comfortable, designer. There is work everywhere, money and cocaine on the desk. The cell phone rings over and over again. Mindblur in spring shows its artists busy producing. The restorer, - who will we call Mr.C– absentmindedly appreciates waivers; He only seems to be interested in one particular work, one for which he was cited. They are silent.
Delft is, by 1650 one of the most important cities in the Netherlands. Not only for its tile production, its excellent technical school or for being the city of origin of The house of Orange: Johannes Vermeer1 he produces his work there as he walks and lives his culture with intensity. Two centuries later, Han van Meegeren, an arts student born into a traditional Catholic family in The Hague, rejects his father's imposition to train as an architect; and still succeeding, he gave up the title defending his interest in the arts of painting and traveled to Delft to train as an artist.
According to Saint Bonaventure a Author is one who, using both concepts of others and his own, does work expressing his own things as main and those of others to confirm them. El commentator, as he writes as main the texts of others while adding his own things with the intention to clarify. In the preliminary study of Philosophy of Imagination, Giorgio Agamben notes the concept of Emanuel Coccia2 on the condition of the author through philology: every tradition begins by establishing creative impossibility. Later, A traditional text exiles itself, the possibility of being written even, -He says. The concept of contemporaneity, –of period– becomes key. According to Coccia, an accessory temporality is necessary to allow all times to finally be reunited in pure actuality. Thus, the comment whose writing achieves that purpose: the comment makes the writer (the thinker) become for a moment contemporary with the object itself (the thought), in a coincidence so ephemeral that memory can melt, in a future past, where every comment maintains an immediate relationship with God.
Van Meegeren meets tutor Bartus Korteling, a specialist in classical painting. The disciple is ideal, even when the teacher decides to accentuate the way in which the young person looks at the world immediately. Korteling's painting classes focus decisively on revalidating a local artist who has no more than thirty works produced and who for reasons of the time -the artists are they remove each other - has been hidden for two centuries: Johannes Vermeer, the genius of the Dutch Baroque. Bartus Korteling has a precise plan: to tenaciously educate the young van Meegeren under the influence of the painters of the Dutch Golden Age3. According to his artistic and academic position there is no other possible model of learning; Vermeer's work organically considers matter, form and light in a visual conjecture of rare temporality and subtle theatricality: historical scenes and allegories, traditional interiors and finally the sumptuous urban landscape of Delft portrayed in exquisite light. The city has always maintained a space-time whose metaphysics dazzles in the memory of its landscapes and the resonance of its beloved artists; perhaps an unalterable vision of God.
A commentator's speech is relative to his own conviction. Coccia quotes Ernest Renan: comments can only be of historical interest to us. Trying to shed light on an interpretation of Aristotle would be a waste of time. It would do as much as reading Racine in a Turkish or Chinese translation to understand him better. In any case there is one more enigma: all comments cannot be explained, but continued, hence its tradability. Run away without being doctrine; he points out the text [the work] that he studies as a means of his own knowledge as he turns it into an absolute tradition of himself.
How much then of Commentator have an author?
Van Meegeren is not surprised by the few paintings Vermeer has painted; In any case, he knows that he dies young, poor and in debt; and that was probably also a lesson included by Korteling. Once again art and its artists face the paradox of poverty and social limits. Over the years and already settled in The Hague, van Meegeren will progressively disdain impressionism and the new ways of the time to capture light outside the forms, perhaps disrespectfully.
Mr.Y y Mr. C they don't talk about money. At the moment the Dealer he just wants to know how the damaged work could be recovered. The Restorer observe the author's technique whom he knows perfectly. It can be said that he was his teacher. Upon training, you know, artists generally seek to come to life between the official political discourse and the formal diversity of the new production models of the time. In the not so distant past, with the consequences of the death of painting In sight, the artistic milieu had been specifically interested in the production of objects, carefully approaching it within a panorama that became revolting and violent. But that doesn't last long. The disorder is such that it is difficult to understand a single position. In two years, artists change course so many times that at times it seems they have lost their minds. Mr. C smile: Remember the workshops flooded with objects and then try sensitive geometry and generative art with no luck: Galleries say that artists like Mac Entyre or Silva4 They are historical episodes and they are nobody to take up those paths that have long been respected classics. They are worth their history. Artists collapse in the face of the contingencies of originality. Mr y gets bored.
Counterfeiters maintain an extra pulse that can be seen subtly universal, even when the age and its technology link any trade to its global history. Not only do they transcend the field of crime and mere technique, but their set –the set of impostors– deals with the control of ambition over the unique, the unrepeatable beauty; memory and art as the justification of God's work. All that is needed to understand this trade is the knowledge of a need indicated in an object that has chosen extraordinary since its appearance in the past, its present being an inimitable economic and spiritual value. Wittgenstein points out: the meaning of a word is the object it denotes. Can God's work be replicated?
A humble teaching title and an extraordinary ability to understand the gestures of classical painting offer van Meegeren a perhaps unseemly job opportunity: For fifteen years he paints still lifes and landscapes for traditional Dutch society. At the same time he earns a considerable fortune while portraying the memories of educated tourists - in the manner of Canaletto and his vedutas5- while strolling along the Côte d'Azur. Little to forge a destiny to suit you.
A vertical stain crosses the entire fabric from top to bottom. Mr.C. observe without concern. He knows that he makes money by remaking the works that the classical world considers irreplaceable. It copies them mainly to order and so that institutions and individuals can sustain themselves with the explicit arguments of size power. For example, offer a Titian to the sight of friends and strangers. Authentic? No, of course, but in any case it bears a possible signature, and next to it, the good name of an institution that supports it with its history. A distracted suspicion and shame aroused by the vile deception closes the course of any investigation.
Van Meegeren's pictorial training culminates in Korteling, who is lazily left behind. Who replaces him is simply the crime: he approaches Theo van Wijngaarden, a Dealer dedicated to the scam of old copies, disciple of Leo Nardus, another swindler of shaft who sells fake collections to North American tycoons of the early twentieth century.
Theo van Wijngaarden has certain technical secrets; means of avoiding the ordinary authenticity tests of the time: weasel hair brushes; lapis lazuli to reproduce blues instead of cobalt; old racks. But his technique gives him away: he is a mediocre painter. Time and opportunity unite their wills seamlessly and thus, con artist and artist team up to achieve a more solid company, especially after the failure of Leo Nardus in court. Soon the war will begin but van Meegeren is already launched. You just need a new life, a city to start from scratch, and a different woman: someone who doesn't ask too much, or at least absentmindedly watches.
Ludwig Wittgenstein grew up in a class environment. His parents surround the family of guardians and celebrities - Brahms, Mahler, Richard Strauss, Arnold Schoenberg6- who together shape the perception of the young in a palatial and refined atmosphere. In the introductory study of Tractatus, Isidoro Reguera notes that Ludwig Wittgenstein begins the war as a logician and ends it as a mystic. After the First World War, Ludwig was a different person. Out of the arrogant-dandy-patrician, a man of Tolstoian simplicity had emerged who first thing he does is give up his money and with it all his previous life. Money, he said, hurts everyone, especially the poor (the rich already suffer from it). Two years until the war. Wittgenstein, following in the footsteps of Bertrand Russell, - his tutor at Cambridge - enters the secret society the apostles, but he immediately excuses himself, disgusted by the esoteric and perhaps light atmosphere of those Saturday meetings. However, he remains in contact with the logic of his mentor and reaches the literature of Virginia Woolf and the friendship of John Maynard Keynes whom he meets in that environment. While writing Tractatus logico-philosophicus7. Understand that the limit of language is what cannot be expressed: "Most of the philosophers' questions and propositions lie in our lack of understanding of our linguistic logic"
Van Meegeren knows that he is doomed to his own prudence. Even with a strong Catholic education on his back, he does not believe that there is predestination or divine judgment. In any case, he feels responsible for his own freedom. Therefore he will be responsible for his own work. Mistakes on earth have a real decision place. His paintings are as much his as Vermeer's were. Everything is paid in this life. God cannot take care of the inequities that we ourselves build to flourish and excel in the swamp of societies we tear down. But does God exist? Is the work of God that of a Commentator? Van Meegeren does not intend to find out. His artistic drive stops those inquisitions. How to call some artists and not others? By defining categories, are we not creating a manifest inequality?
El Dealer think that a restorer is not a serious artist; meanwhile it will seriously solve your problem. He's a professional, period, and his business is technical: their relationship is about fees. But Mr. C - the impostor artist - needs more than his tools to do his job. For example a partner, who we will call Mr. X: He is simply the very condition of surplus value. The painting may be worth as much as your labor adds to it. It does more than manage the details and promptly fix the fees. It is expressed between the legal and the classical culture and these elements together maintain a chemistry that makes any dividend shudder. Obviously they are functional to each other without anything being able to arouse some kind of inconvenience in both of them. Only one concern will drag on forever: a possible fraud charge and a fraud conviction. They do not know what will happen if the prosecutors finally show what it reveals. Maybe they just have to return what they have won and eventually apologize, not without first pointing out the complicity of Trader.
Who catapults van Meegeren is an eminence; an expert in authenticating Vermeers: Abraham Bredius,8 who advertises pompously in The Burlington Magazine than van Meegeren's forgery, -The Emmaus Supper–It is indeed the work of the great Vermeer. What is said a real shame, but in any case it is too late. Those who are close have no other way than silence. Bredius is very old and is not worth exposing him in the face of such insolence. The journalist Gastón Leroux has already done it before the war posing as an anthropologist to interview a prisoner unjustly detained in Normandy. Being that he was just a drunken theater critic, Echo, from Paris must have finally congratulated him on the ploy.
When Ludwig Wittgenstein enlisted in 1914 as a plainsman, he wrote to Bertrand Russell to tell him that his decision was vital: he cannot cower in battle. The war calls him like any son of his country. If you falter, you will understand a sign that your view on life is false. For Russell, an empiricist philosopher who has carefully read Descartes, immediate knowledge does not need any justification either; we know what we cannot doubt: true knowledge derives from logical and mathematical propositions and, of course, from direct experience.
Leo Nardus9 and Theo van Wijngaarden observe the work purchased at negligible cost. They are questioned without anxiety. They are partners. The painting is poor, but it could be revamped and sold as a portrait of the famous Franz Hals and dated to averaging 1650. Leo Nardus certainly considers fraud simple; Instead, Theo van Wijngaarden proposes to use a more reputable specialist. For a long time, they have lived at the expense of a particular link: the accumulation, exhibition and outrageous consumption of works that under the name of works are sold on the market as if they were a commodity. Being that they are, their skepticism does not have to do with any failure but with a different way of understanding the question of art itself. They show nothing but an indolent observation, perhaps a technical one; insignificant. In any case, these arguments have powerfully fed the material well-being of both, their goods; in short, his wealth. They have made a lot of money and it is difficult to accept if they have done it unfairly; In any case, the discussion - more complex - would be around another aspect: whether or not the impostor's performance deals with the experience of art, those of the Dealer the conditions of a salaried job or simply defined industrial.
Mr.Y, Mr.X y Mr. C they are functional criminals. But while the first receives the need for help, the second helps collect the cumbersome sums with which the three of them live and pay for their nonsense. Splendid sums that appear without question because behind the copy there is a need. For example a robbery, a kidnapping, a mistake. The question is always the same: Another accident? And the Financier answer yes or no, depending on the circumstances. Sometimes it is serious. Others very serious. Sometimes there is despair. At those times the fees go up and the earnings are formidable. The goat always shoots for the bush, as they say.
Theo van Wijngaarden, -Dealer and painter at the same time– unwrap the painting and point to the work to be reproduced. Han van Meegeren doesn't move a single tab. It is not their purpose to distinguish between right and wrong. His silence is about something else; You can paint it exactly the same, but you can do something better still: interpret it. It is from his own magnifying glass that van Meegeren observes. Theo van Wijngaarden is not surprised. Isn't he also an author? For what reason could they not appropriate something whose intellectual reason begins to belong to them? Linnaeus' taxonomy has probably started a good part of all this, that is to say include and exclude from the world and then show the result. The visible then, the result of these very particular sets, will also be what will exist forever. In the future, they both know perfectly well, the Museums will triple the number of works stored in reference to any other period in the history of art.
It goes without saying that Museums commission, highlight and buy works to ignite the course of mere history, but also to unfreeze its existence and recompose the exhibition circuit with novelties. This is not a simplification; artists do it to strengthen their ego. Currently France has more than three thousand museums and it correctly has them in the name of culture. In this sense, they behave the same as the film industry that rents seats while projecting one or another story barely packaged on a minimal memory card. Seen in this way, it does not seem decent to flood museums with works, although it is ultimately a mechanism that feeds itself on the market for cultural consumption.
Walter Benjamin writes it like this: In principle, the artwork has always been reproducible. What had been done by human beings could always be re-done or imitated by other human beings. There were, in fact, imitations, and they were practiced by disciples to practice art, masters to propagate their works, and also third parties with profit ambitions.
At the end of the Second World War the world begins its reconstruction. Winners and losers alike are eagerly seeking to order finances, but also to find and imprison criminals and perpetrators; direct and indirect, but all important. In this scenario, the artist-impostor van Meegeren is identified as a vulgar thief while carrying the painful accusation of having collaborated with Nazism: his transactions with works of art managed to capitalize on the Tercer Reich and equip it with vital economic force to invade Russia. Van Meegeren cannot get the authorities to understand the facts; for the court, the works found in the personal heritage of a dozen Nazi hierarchs, has completed a blow to the heart of Dutch culture. And that is unforgivable. What withers from the work of art –Says Benjamin– it is his aura. And that, - says the Crown - is what must be recovered immediately.
Foucault wonders if a work of authorship includes the drafts; disturbances; the hesitations. The final edition of every work discards a priori deletions and amendments, and even 'laundry notes' that interspersed with his thoughts, abound in the notebooks of any author. In effect, it would not be about their gestures or their marks; neither of what 'could have meant'. The word 'Work' and the unit it designates are probably as problematic as the individuality of the author.
Mr. C order your tools. It is methodical. It can be said that except for his indifference he works like a scientist. He knows how to detach himself from the recognized urgencies of the classical artist; the certainly winding path in search of an original and own image. Although it takes him time to decipher the path, he concludes later than ever that what interests him precisely when painting is the copy itself, plain and simple and that this treatment of reality is saturated with necessity, a question that will inevitably lead him to other issues, such as crime. In this scenario, economic well-being saves the differences of an ethic that the art medium has not shown with transparency. In such a way he feels no discomfort in charging fees for a Vasarely geometry or Monet's landscape which the artist himself could probably never imagine rehearsing a bead on paper. Vermeer and Rembrandt die broke; Artaud in a psychiatric hospital. Van Gogh; let it be clear he did not know the extravagance of the contemporary artist. For an artist, an impostor, it is enough to see his own result. His tradability. And in any case, he does not care to paint a Dalí than a second-rate still life, being second-rate still lifes as difficult to replicate as any landscape in Catalan. There is no plus in this regard: the work must be reconstructed using a particular technique and that cannot be altered one iota.
When it comes to ending up in jail, it's a minor issue. You usually end your days somewhere, he says, and prison is one of those.
In 1939, Benjamin confronts Marinetti10. Both politically dispute the future of humanity arguing about art and artists. Benjamin warns that fascism founds the experience of art in a ruthless and militaristic aesthetic enjoyment, while accusing Marinetti of pushing humanity into a deadly ecstasy, an aesthetic based on the power of annihilation. For Marinetti instead, War is beautiful because it creates new architectures like those of tanks.
Of course, Marinetti is dazzled by the future that in front of the world is manifested in the military might, the agitated language of messianism, the parades, the imposing geometry of martial uniformity, the smoking cities: war, -He says- it is the artistic satisfaction of sensory perception transformed by technique.
Under the new conditions of production, that is to say an art without ruling classes, Walter Benjamin reflects on the new concepts: […] Completely unusable for the purposes of fascism. Instead they are useful for formulating revolutionary demands on the politics of art. Society is ready to free itself from an art that is presumed autonomous and sacred.
Hermann Göring, a former powerful member of the German National Socialist Workers' Party, stubborn founder of the Gestapo and commander of the Luftwaffe, is imprisoned at the end of the war. Faces the Nuremberg trial as a lieutenant, but his wealth and extravagant ways are striking. Göring has controlled the patriotic tax collection in Germany; a coherent formula to comfortably face war. His specific work was the purchase of properties, cultural assets and patrimonial works to the point that every major economic transaction ended up going through his visa. Of course, it is found that he also steals, but from Jews. Its museums are the prey of an unprecedented voracity. With them there is no negotiation. Paris is the collection center where thousands of wagons loaded with wealth arrive. A good part of these treasures will enchant their lovers without forgetting to decorate their public life and their political obligations with eccentricity. In the trial, he will consider himself innocent of the economic crimes under the defense that the Tercer Reich it was only attempting to replace - perhaps displace - stubbornly Jewish leadership in the arts and business. His interest in Renaissance painting had been relevant.
The conditions of the forgery, that is to say repeating lines, signatures and drawings, are usually completely natural. Like everything that is mastered, the artist has always known it, but he can only demonstrate it among peers: the school. In that place, -surrounded and admired-, Mr. C draw directly by copying from magazines: first from the Seven days illustrated; then some Selections from Reader's Digest that are their true battlefield. He copies the illustrations as they are seen, and sometimes enlarging them twice and with the only tool he knows, the noble tempera. He rehearses the stroke of each of these cartoonists in all possible ways, even modifying the brushes with a scissors, obtaining brushstrokes that have a very particular stamp for the time, –a certain expressive vigor that helps to give character to the story of the notes– The illustration you copy in all cases is always superior to the text. Chronicles, adventures, diaries, epics: double agents of the KGB11, typhoons in the sea, linemen turned into CEOs of corporations.
Full of doubts, he writes down in a painting workshop and during a single winter he learns about fabrics and yarns, about fired and torn, baked and chemistry; in short, a true festival of expressive media. Mr.C. he forges stamps and signatures and goes into the National Museum of Fine Arts and thus photograph some pictures for an apocryphal record of the Chancellery. It is no longer a question of reproducing small magazine vignettes, but rather it is directed like an incandescent arrow to the very center of the art world: the work of museums. The document is so real that he uses it in other places - the Museum of Decorative Art and the Museum of Natural Sciences - just to verify its soundness. At that time nobody thinks about sabotage. Or if? Phones aren't even working properly. It does not abuse. Photograph in detail a small Greco, a Candido Lopez12 large format and a Benedit. That is, what you find interesting according to certain stylistic and technical difficulties. He does not know much about them but it is the moment when he begins to know them. There is a diversity in this material that introduces him to the experience of painting at any time and in any format. Benedit's watercolors look like mechanisms; laboratory drawings. You are amazed by the cleanliness of the color, the precise and sensitive pencil, the register of the paper and the organic way of illuminating the matter. The inside view of Curuzú Fort, it takes three years of work. Every so often he returns to the museum and stares at a work for hours. Write down issues such as the direction and depth of the brushstroke or the type of cracking of the oils, which at that moment he discovers as treasures. That period lasts two years and the results are not as good as you might think, but still they serve to find the faults and correct them again and again. It is difficult to paint like the classics, but not impossible. The classics were also men like any of us; even with assistants as capable as the will of the time allowed. Mr. C you can affirm that there was not a single Vermeer; another may well be born tomorrow.
In 1940, Major Hermann Göring bought a Vermeer that had never been seen before: Christ with the Adulteress. The painting, -a work by van Meegeren– presents historical and technical errors at first glance, except that the military is unaware of them: Göring does not know about pigments, or craquelure, or fabrics. In any case, van Meegeren masters the issues of appearance by deploying all possible technical resources, even producing rips and tears that seem natural. The suggestion is complete: Göring is dazzled and thinks it is a lost work by Vermeer; one of many that are hidden and little by little come to light. Nor does he hesitate to pay for so much. The Dutch heritage par excellence is yours.
Mr. C he stays out of the contemporary, except working on some images as mere exercises in style. Therefore it is mainly dedicated to observing. He displays a certain activity in the artistic environment but with caution; shows himself with humility. He is just a minor artist who rehearses in workshops and every so often paints in the manner of the classics. His colleagues, who see in his decision to eternally learn the prolegomena of academics, an unfailing departure from the production of original work, encourage him to change course. Others view their position as a momentary crisis. They propose very expressive acrylics that highlight both the influence of Constant - and of the group COBRA in general– as well as the Pop lyrics that Yuyo Noé and De La Vega13 have produced in previous decades. Despite the fact that geometric art and hyper-realistic painting coexist with abstraction and even conceptualism, the gestural brushstrokes of his colleagues - perhaps an abstract expressionism like Mathieu's? - are observed in the exhibitions with disinterest. In full postmodernism, probably disenchanted, –you know–, his colleagues choose the airbrush on canvas. They seem to get excited about such small and fragile works; cold, perhaps naive, but the return of painting and its enormous formats and references to the misty and tortured processes of the artist's unconscious and the multiplication of quotations as a model of appropriation of history leave them empty-handed. Mr. C look at the stage without being surprised. The atmosphere belatedly reacts to neo-expressionism and the trans-avant-garde with excessive anger: Bad painting14, they comment troubled by what they consider an affront. The forger - or should we call him an artist, too? - is faced with two paths: joining postmodern hedonism and its entourage of exquisite painters, or disappearing to paint in the shadows works that could well belong to their authors or replace them in the face of some theft unexpected. Y Mr. C He chooses the second option, which is equal to the first and that of all his colleagues: personal wealth.
As the history of crime shows from time to time, a powerful boss like Göring can also land in prison; When it comes to patrimonial values, economic crimes have capital punishment. The investigation in the trials reaches the bankers. From jail, Göring does not hesitate and immediately points to van Meegeren as a simple intermediary while accusing him of the fraudulent transaction. A financier close to both, Alois Miedl, objects that van Meegeren is a common thief. Of course, the amount in florins paid by Hermann Göring is exorbitant. A Dutch-Jewish military man searches, hunts and imprisons van Meegeren in 1945. The accusation is complementary to that of the German commander: collaborating with Nazism and betraying his homeland. The financier is safe.
Mr. C paint a Vermeer and Mr.X charges fees for a Vermeer. But there is something surprising. Mr. C not Vermeer, but Mr.Y trust that it will do it as Vermeer did four centuries ago. While, Mr. C He knows that in another three hundred years, if there is anything left on this world, there is going to be someone who will do it even better again. Better than both means, since there is no evaluation whatsoever in the work, nor in the contents, nor in the artist. A certain unstoppable drive dominates the scene: The player does not care to lose - or win - his money in a gambling den than in a distinguished club. Whoever commissions painting like Le Parc is not referring to anything other than the concrete declaration of a crime and in that case something of the romanticism that the very idea of representation supposes remains in doubt.
But van Meegeren understands that he can show that his paintings are not mass reproductions; they have the knowledge and justification that philology finds in traditions. His work, –as a novelty– is framed in a concrete event: the historical appearance of an artistic subject, something that must keep him safe from crime; and in any case –the work– be part of the same culture that he himself gave continuity to. Their comments- they are nothing more than an unstoppable historical and cultural succession: cultural appearances. That's his tradability. And they are yours too. They did not exist. That the arrogant society has paid fortunes believing that they were lost originals of Vermeer is another aspect of reality. Very different. Vermeer has painted only about thirty paintings. Much less than he, who has recreated old themes, has incorporated the reading of sacred books and has faithfully covered the "as if" in a kind of understanding about the contemporary, a learning that requires the participation of an entire society to achieve it: legitimize it as an author.
The court rules against van Meegeren. He considers that the paintings under discussion are original and as patrimonial, the crime is serious. Who can reproduce the work of the master Vermeer? Van Meegeren is outraged but also feels that he has been able to twist the expert's eye once more with his own work. Who are those men who point him out as a mere impostor? Well earned, he has his economic heritage, the fruit of his knowledge and his work.
The jury states that van Meegeren, like any impostor, shows misguided and immoral behavior: too much money, too much whiskey; countless women. For van Meegeren his story of wealth seems to barely retreat under the memory of the French Riviera and its unspeakable millions that are hidden among the random jewels with which he paid his countless prostitutes. The Court finds one more fault: It accuses Jo Oerlemans, his wife from whom he has long been separated, of complicity. Van Meegeren exonerates her and succeeds; rebukes them. He can hardly admit a meaning other than that for which he could be condemned: his artistic genius. Jo will be silent. By separating, the two have saved their fortune by transferring the winnings to different accounts. Jo dies old and surrounded by the earnings of van Meegeren but also explaining to her own and strangers that she never knew anything about her husband's crimes. The court's summary is that van Meegeren was a con man whose perhaps clumsy tale tried to distract them as infants with the story of a painting genius who had also managed to effortlessly defraud the fearsome Nazi power: A year in prison.
Before dying, van Meegeren pleads about his genius. He also exposes his tirade with vanity. Even through logical propositions. By asking for his brushes and a canvas, he tries to prove to justice that the works that Nazism has bought in quantity are his artistic property. In any case, they are his forgeries, his work as a commentator; its great imposture. Nobody has stolen the Dutch heritage. He himself is and is worth it. It is their homeland. The jury must observe his genius; It is comparable to those who have cited In any case, he has not only fooled the experts, he has also fooled art history itself.
What does it matter who speaks? Foucault wonders: it is the voice and not the language that matters. In 1980, in the midst of a civic-military dictatorship, the Italian architect Aldo Rossi15 he exhibits work and theory during a private conference in Buenos Aires: copying, he says, is always a poor option, except when the absolutely legitimate model is the grandmother herself.
Van Meegeren paints from a perspective whose reverse is the history of art itself. He also feels that he is an artist and maybe he is. He is exulting. He will repaint even in a miserable cell. A Vermeer? Not! An authentic van Meegeren, perfectly his; definitely his work. The journalist Gastón Leroux has already done it before the war posing as an anthropologist to interview a prisoner unjustly detained in Normandy. The jury will be able to draw its own conclusions. That is his testimony, the rest will be silence, as Wittgenstein expresses it: «Of what cannot be spoken, it is necessary to be silent»
Van Meegeren is transferred from prison in Weteringschans to the Headquarters of the Amsterdam Military Command and thus prove that the paintings sold to Göring were not stolen. They are simply works of his genius. The room is small and packed with reporters and collectors; Nazi experts, prosecutors and hunters. In this sort of Roman circus, he stands in front of a cloth and its tools. They have also brought him his own work table, his palettes, his brushes, his chemistry. This time he no longer has anyone on his side. Start painting. You know they underestimate you. Van Meegeren's anger recalls his shame and shame; while he seems to forget his conservative beginnings, his classic still lifes and even the famous painting of a doe - Princess Julianna's pet - with which he gained fame and prestige in his early days. The room is once again filled with the same fierce faces of the art experts of the past. They seem to replicate the criticisms about that first painting, –honest and reputable in the society of the beginning of the 1945th century– as a work lacking in originality and extremely poor stylistically. During July and December XNUMX he painted as evidence Christ in the temple, perhaps his best work. A short time later, he certainly left it unfinished when he died of a heart attack in full seclusion.
Mr. X, Mr. C and Mr. Y They meet during a dinner with a Collector. They look at the photo of an opening in Madrid in 2004. It is a toast and behind, in the center, a somewhat blurred painting. On the left is the artist: Oscar Carballo16On the right the buyer of the work, a foreign collector whose name I do not remember but he has a glass of wine raised towards the camera. Carballo does not smile; to the side seems to be Eduardo Stupía or someone very similar. The perspective projection of the cup, the collector's hand, and the artist's right elbow subtract a considerable area from the background work. The collector asks to replace it. It no longer exists: it was lost in the freight back to Buenos Aires. An accident, he says. In the meeting the missing sector is discussed through imagination; that is, explain what would actually be seen behind the glass. Mr.X he moves quickly and gets a catalog of the exhibition but that painting is not included: there is no record whatsoever. The sample is called"Geometries for a liberal propaganda". At the meeting, however, the collector fails to distinguish between something circular and something spherical. Mr. C asks that they leave in their hands the possibility of interpreting any possibility in reference to Carballo's work; if something like this could be possible, that is, for Carballo to copy himself and hopefully that was not the work with which he was able to break with his own heterodox language. The collector argues that without registration, no one is in a position to remember the work as it is. The discussion takes weeks but the important thing is to replace the work and authenticate it. Mr. C explains that it is a common difficulty in restorers; Vermeer paints Diana and the nymphs and even Girl with flute, as if it were another author. There are so many imperfections and the paintings so different from each other regarding their work as a whole, that they will never cease to be questioned for their authenticity.
Finally They all agree and the possible black rectangle, full and without texture - suggested by Mr.X- It becomes a golden reindeer repeating some iridescent blue outlines that appear in another sector of the painting -Mr-y-, but enclosing two cubist figures facing each other in a mirror according to the contribution of the collector. The work - a mixed technique that includes cutout paper - takes six weeks. The cardboard may not be the same, although it is similar. Variation is no longer a copy and that, in short, discovers an old possibility already used with the work of other artists: recreation, or more specifically, interpretation. Some kind of parody? Mr. C will do nothing but follow van Meegeren's advice: Approach historically the subject and the author's speeches by discussing his tradability.
During the Second World War, Julianna, Queen of the Netherlands goes into exile in Canada with her daughters. Escape from Nazism and the indecisions of the crown regarding a strong and clarifying political position against Germany. Pack some souvenirs, especially for the girls. For his part, he carries the painting of the doe, the work of the artist Han van Meegeren. They choose Canada and the anonymity is so great that the queen moves domestically in Ottawa, a medium that does not know her. Upon the birth of their third daughter, Margarita, the Canadian Parliament passed a law to convert the property of Rockcliffe Park, - the house where the family lives - and still, the clinic where they will give birth, - the Ottawa Civic Hospital- on Dutch land and property and thus ensure that Margarita maintains the lineage and nationality of her parents.
Tom Keating, a British restorer dies in the early 1980s. His trade allows him to be close to priceless works. You know them internally. Knows of brushstrokes and damage. Of aging and styles. Copies countless Constable and Rembrandt until he can no longer, justice is also responsible for tightening some nut. He has a lot of fun and so his defense is perhaps a joke. Explain in court that one thing is to falsify and quite another, paint in the style of a particular artist. Did I sign the works? -He says-. And it is true. He honestly stamps the word FAKE17 with invisible ink, but easy to verify for any collector worth his salt to secure their purchase.
After facing justice, the story of his fame offers him an opportunity to start a career among new collectors, diehard fans and other curious. Keating gives up and dies in the field, with some happiness but with the certainty that he is not interested in the abundance that material wealth produces. He dies in a different place than van Meegeren, but a place nonetheless. His works are today listed on Christies.
All of van Meegeren's works were auctioned in due time and during the trial to replenish some of the capital from the scams to collectors. Nevertheless, The Supper at Emmaus18 the painting that earned merits for its excellence in its time, sold as an authentic Vermeer and exhibited at the Museum of Rotterdam, hangs now - it appears to be - in the shady corridor of a Church in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Jesus among the Doctors, the painting that van Meegeren painted in front of the court of police officers, prosecutors and onlookers, - not ending with his death - was sold without pain or glory at a public auction for a few thousand US dollars.
Aftermath Laika, Buenos Aires, June 2021