The Greatest Forger

It was perhaps the greatest hoax in art history. Han van Meegeren was an artist with a grudge. Painting in the Netherlands pre World War 2, critics mercilessly panned his exhibitions. One critic described him as “A gifted technician who has made a sort of composite facsimile of the Renaissance school, he has every virtue except originality.” Stung, van Meegreen decided to strike back. He painted a work with flourishes of the style of the great Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer, titled it “The Supper at Emmaus”, and submitted it to the prominent critic Abraham Bredius. Bredius took the bait, writing that “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… And what a picture! We have here a – I am inclined to say the – masterpiece of Johannes Vermeer of Delft.”  The art world gasped, the painting was sold for the equivalent of millions of dollars, and displayed in  the Boijmans Gallery in Rotterda.

Han van Meegren planned to expose the forgery at the opening of the Gallery’s 400 Years of European Art exhibition, in which his forgery was given pride of place. His critics would be humiliated and their reputations shattered. Greed, however, got the better of him. Rather than exposing the forgery, he made more, raking in millions more dollars. When the Nazis swept through Europe, he even managed to sell The Supper at Emmaus to them.

This almost proved his undoing.After the war the victorious Allied forces were determined to return the artworks collected by the Nazis to their previous owners. A receipy led two soldiers from the Allied Art Commission to the studio of vm Meegren. They wanted to know from whom van Meegran had bought the artwork. Unwilling to divulge the truth, van Megreen was arrested on charges of treason and faced the death penalty. Confined in prison, facing death, van Megreen had a change of heart. He confessed, but no-one believed him. Experts testified that the work was indeed an original by the Dutch master Vermeer. The only way to prove his innocence was to produce another fake, anfd so he did, spending weeks literally painting for his life!

The final twist to the story is that van Meegren was not only acquitted, but became a national hero, for he had fooled the Nazis, shown them to be the corrupt regime everyone knew they were.

Source: information found in “The forger who fooled the world” The Telegraph, Aug 5, 2006
 

See Me

This poem was written by an old woman living in a nursing home in Ireland. It was found among her things when she died.

What do you see nurses, what do you see?
Are you thinking when you look at me?
A crabbit old woman, not very wise,
Uncertain of habit, with far away eyes,
Who dribbles her food and makes no reply
When you say in a loud voice- “I do wish you’d try.”
And forever is losing a sock or a shoe.
Who unresisting or not, lets you do as you will,
With bathing and feeding, the long day to fill.
Is that what you think, is that what you see?
Open your eyes, nurse, you’re not looking at me.

I’ll tell you who I am, as I sit here so still,
As I use at your bidding, and eat at your will,
I’m a small child of ten, with a father and mother,
Brothers and sisters who loved one another,
A young girl of 16, with wings on her feet,
Dreaming that soon now a lover she’ll meet.
A bride soon at 20, my heart give a leap.
Remembering the vows that I promised to keep.
At 25 now, I have young of my own,
Who need me to build a secure, happy home.
A women of 30, my young now grow so fast,
Bound to each other with ties that should last.
At 40, my young sons have grown and are gone,
But my man’s beside me to see I don’t mourn.
At 50 once more, babies play round my knee,
Again we know children, my loved one and me.

Dark days are upon me, my husband is dead.
I look at the future and shudder with dread.
For my young are all rearing young of their own,
And I think of the years and the love that I’ve known,
I’m and old women now and nature is cruel,
Tis her jest to make old age look like a fool.
The body, it crumbles, grace and vigour depart.
There is now a stone where I once had a heart.
But inside this old carcass a young girl still dwells,
And now and again, my battered heart swells,
I remember the joys and I remember the pain,
And I’m living and loving life over again,
I think of the years all too few- gone too fast,
And accept the stark fact that nothing can last.
Open your eyes, nurse open and see.
Not an empty old women, look closer- see ME.

Source: unknown

The Good Points

Standard Oil was once one of the biggest companies in the world, led by the famous John D Rockefeller. On one occasion a company executive made a bad decision. It cost the firm $2 million. This was the late 1800’s and $2 million was a huge sum.

Edward Bedford, a partner in the company had an appointment to see Rockefeller. When he entered Rockefeller’s office he saw his boss bent over a piece of paper, busily scribbling notes. When Rockefeller finally looked up he said to Bedford,  “I suppose you’ve heard about our loss? I’ve been thinking it over,” Rockefeller said, “and before I ask the man in to discuss the matter, I’ve been making some notes.”

Bedford looked across the table and saw the page Rockefeller had been scribbling on. Across the top of the page was the heading, “Points in favour of Mr __________.” Below the heading was a long list of the man’s good qualities, including notes of three occasions where he had made decisions that had earned the company many times more than his error had lost.

Bedford later said, “I never forgot that lesson. In later years, whenever I was tempted to rip into anyone, I forced myself first to sit down and thoughtfully compile as long a list of good points as I possibly could. Invariably, by the time I finished my inventory, I would see the matter in its true perspective and keep my temper under control. There is no telling how many times this habit has prevented me from committing one of the costliest mistakes any executive can make — losing his temper.”

Source: reported in Bits & Pieces, September 15, 1994