Synopses & Reviews
As riveting as a World War II thriller, The Forger's Spell
is the true story of Johannes Vermeer and the small-time Dutch painter who dared to impersonate him centuries later. The con man's mark was Hermann Goering, one of the most reviled leaders of Nazi Germany and a fanatic collector of art.
It was an almost perfect crime. For seven years a no-account painter named Han van Meegeren managed to pass off his paintings as those of one of the most beloved and admired artists who ever lived. But, as Edward Dolnick reveals, the reason for the forger's success was not his artistic skill. Van Meegeren was a mediocre artist. His true genius lay in psychological manipulation, and he came within inches of fooling both the Nazis and the world. Instead, he landed in an Amsterdam court on trial for his life.
ARTnews called Dolnick's previous book, the Edgar Award-winning The Rescue Artist, "the best book ever written on art crime." In The Forger's Spell, the stage is bigger, the stakes are higher, and the villains are blacker.
"Edgar-winner Dolnick (The Rescue Artist) delves into the extraordinary story of Han van Meegeren (1889 1947), who made a fortune in German-occupied Holland by forging paintings of the 17th-century Dutch painter Vermeer. The discovery of a 'new' Vermeer was just what the beleaguered Dutch needed to lift their spirits, and van Meegeren's Christ at Emmaus had already been bought by the Boymans Museum in Rotterdam in 1937 for $2.6 million. Collectors, critics and the public were blind to the clumsiness of this work and five other 'Vermeers' done by van Meegeren. Dolnick asks how everyone could have been fooled, and he answers with a fascinating analysis of the forger's technique and a perceptive discussion of van Meegeren's genius at manipulating people. Van Meegeren was unmasked in 1945 by one of his clients, Hermann Goering. Later accused of treason for collaboration, he saved himself from execution and even became a hero for having swindled Goering. Dolnick's compelling look at how a forger worked his magic leads to one sad conclusion: there will always be eager victims waiting to be duped. Illus. not seen by PW. (June 24)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Dolnick's zesty, incisive, and entertaining inquiry illuminates the hidden dimensions and explicates the far-reaching implications of this fascinating and provocative collision of art and ambition, deception and war." Booklist
"Forgery is interesting in part because it demands great, if imitative, skill, and in part because copying itself has become a significant aspect of contemporary art-making. It is an art-crime that encourages reflections on the nature of art itself. This book is an aid to such reflections." New York Times
"Energetic and authoritative." Kirkus Reviews
"Dolnick goes beyond the techniques of forgery to show how fakes succeed, and how the ability of the forger depends on the fallibility of experts." Rocky Mountain News
About the Author
Edward Dolnick is the author of Down the Great Unknown, The Rescue Artist, and Madness on the Couch. A former chief science writer at the Boston Globe, he has written for the Atlantic Monthly, the New York Times Magazine, and many other publications. He lives with his wife near Washington, D.C.