The Museum of Hoaxes
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Female thieves hide money in their bras, 1950
Mencken's fake history of the bathtub, 1917
Rare planetary alignment decreases gravity, 1976
Dog wins art contest, 1974
Prankster causes volcano to erupt, 1974
The Nazi Air Marker Hoax, 1942
Princess Caraboo, servant girl who became a princess, 1817
Boy floats away in balloon, 2009
Iceberg floats into Sydney Harbor, 1978
The Great New York Zoo Escape Hoax, 1874
Han van Meegeren, 1947
In 1947 Han van Meegeren (1889-1947), a Dutch artist and art dealer, was arrested for collaborating with the Nazis. He was charged with selling a painting by Johannes Vermeer (1632-75) titled 'Christ and the Adulteress' to Reich Marshal Hermann Goering. This painting was considered a national treasure, making it a crime to sell it to the enemy.

Van Meegeren admitted selling the painting to Goering, but he defended himself by revealing that the painting was a forgery which he had painted himself. Surely it wasn't a crime to cheat the Nazis, he argued.

The authorities were reluctant to believe van Meegeren was talented enough to produce a work of such quality, so he proved it by painting another imitation Vermeer while in his prison cell.

It turned out that he had been churning out fakes for years, amassing a small fortune in the process. He owned 52 houses and numerous other properties. His most lucrative fake, Supper at Emmaus, painted in imitation of Vermeer, had sold in 1936 for 520,000 guilders.

He had turned to forgery both because it was highly lucrative and because he felt bitter that the art world had spurned his legitimate efforts.

He was convicted of forgery and sentenced to prison, but died of a heart attack before he served any time.
Categories: Art, Art Forgery, Forgers, 1914-1949
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All text Copyright © 2014 by Alex Boese, except where otherwise indicated. All rights reserved.