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
A few years ago JK Rowling, author of the best selling Harry Potter novels, delivered an amazing commencement speech at Harvard University. Titled “The Fringe Benefits of Failure, and the Importance of Imagination”, Rowling describes how seven years after graduating university her marriage had broken down and she found herself an unemployed, single parent living in poverty. She was, in her mind, an abject failure. But hitting rock bottom brought a clarity that changed her life
So why do I talk about the benefits of failure? Simply because failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged. I was set free, because my greatest fear had been realised, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter and a big idea. And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life…
Who am I?
When I was 7 years old my family was forced out of their home on a legal technicality, and I had to work to help support them.
At age 9 my mother died.
At 22 I lost my job as a store clerk. I wanted to go to law school, but my education wasn’t good enough.
At 23 I went into debt to become a partner in a small store.
At 26 my business partner died, leaving me a huge debt that took years to repay.
At 28, after courting a girl for four years I asked her to marry him. She said no.
At 37, on my third try, I was elected to the US Congress, but two years later I failed to be re-elected.
At 41 my four year old son died.
At 45 I ran for the Senate and lost.
At 47 I failed as the vice-presidential candidate.
At 51 I was elected president of the United States.
Who am I? My name was Abraham Lincoln
A well known speaker started his seminar by holding up a $20 bill. In the room of 200, he asked, “Who would like this $20 bill?”
Hands started going up. He said, “I am going to give this $20 to one of you but first, let me do this.” He proceeded to crumple the dollar bill up. He then asked, “Who still wants it?” Still the hands were up in the air.
“Well,” he replied, “What if I do this?” And he dropped it on the ground and started to grind it into the floor with his shoe. He picked it up, now all crumpled and dirty.
“Now who still wants it?” Still the hands went into the air.
“My friends, you have all learned a very valuable lesson. No matter what I did to the money, you still wanted it because it did not decrease in value. It was still worth $20. Many times in our lives, we are dropped, crumpled, and ground into the dirt by the decisions we make and the circumstances that come our way. We feel as though we are worthless. But no matter what has happened or what will happen, you will never lose your value in God’s eyes. To Him, dirty or clean, crumpled or finely creased, you are still priceless to Him.
Thomas Edison tried two thousand different materials in search of a filament for the light bulb. When none worked satisfactorily, his assistant complained, “All our work is in vain. We have learned nothing.”
Edison replied very confidently, “Oh, we have come a long way and we have learned a lot. We now that there are two thousand elements which we cannot use to make a good light bulb.”