Option #3 Fake or Fraud.
The object is a painting, “Supper at Emmaus”, painted by Han Van Meegeren, but sold as a Vermeer.
It’s important because it was his first forgery, very successful and the start of a serie of forgeries.
The “why” is in the story of the Dutch painter: Han van Meegeren. ( *1*2)
He lived in The Netherlands from 1889-1947, with a six-year interval in France from 1932-1937.
He was a technically gifted painter, but his paintings were not en vogue.
He signed all his work with his own name, but became angry that his paintings were not admired as those of the artists some centuries earlier, the style in which he painted.
But all his works were still signed with his own name.
In 1932 he moved to the Roquebrune-Cap-Martin in the south of France where he started to study ways to forge works of the world’s most famous artists just to prove his talent and to humiliate his critics.
And there he gave birth to this magnificent painting.
He copied painters as Frans Hals, Pieter de Hooch, Gerard ter Borch and Johannes Vermeer.
Supper at Emmaus, canvas 118×130.5
This painting was sold in 1937 as a Vermeer but painted by Van Meegeren.
He used genuine 17th century canvas and also the historical pigments.
The pigments were bound by bakelite which hardened if it was heated and produced almost the same surface as original
17th century paintings.
It was, according to critics, the finest Vermeer ever seen.
Almost immediately (1938) it was purchased by the museum Boijmans Van Beuningen (*3), director Hannema (*4) in Rotterdam where it still is.
In 1945 Van Meegeren, during his trial, claimed the painting was his.
The question if it was harmful is a complicated one. It certainly was harmful to the experts who declared it a genuine Vermeer.
Especially Dirk Hannema suffered in his career. It was also harmful to the wallet of the museum.
But on the other hand it was lucrative for Van Meegeren and it was good for the methods of investigation to be able to qualify
this as a fake Vermeer.
It didn’t do any harm to the copied painters or their inheritance, nor to the knowledge about them.
And for the public, there’s an interesting masterpiece.
The truth about this fake is that it’s recognized as a Van Meegeren.
The supper at Emmaus was also painted by Rembrandt and Carvaggio (*5 and *6)
Whether the supper at Emmaus really took place is quite another story.
After Van Meegerens death there were more Van Meegerens discovered. It turned out that his son was trying to paint in his style.
So there are also fake Van Meegerens.