The Forger's Spell: A True Story of Vermeer, Nazis, and the Greatest Art Hoax of the Twentieth Century [NOOK Book]

Overview

As riveting as a World War II thriller, The Forger's Spell is the true story of three men and an extraordinary deception: the revered artist Johannes Vermeer; the small-time Dutch painter who dared to impersonate him years later; and the con man's mark, Hermann Goering, the fanatical art collector and one of Nazi Germany's most reviled leaders.

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The Forger's Spell: A True Story of Vermeer, Nazis, and the Greatest Art Hoax of the Twentieth Century

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Overview

As riveting as a World War II thriller, The Forger's Spell is the true story of three men and an extraordinary deception: the revered artist Johannes Vermeer; the small-time Dutch painter who dared to impersonate him years later; and the con man's mark, Hermann Goering, the fanatical art collector and one of Nazi Germany's most reviled leaders.

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Editorial Reviews

Daniel Stashower
…[a] gripping historical narrative…It is strangely mesmerizing to witness Van Meegeren bend to his labors, though in effect we are simply watching paint dry.
—The Washington Post
Anthony Julius
Dolnick…tells his story engagingly and with a light touch. He has a novelist's talent for characterization, and he raises fascinating questions. How, for instance, could the forgeries have fooled anyone? (Dolnick says that van Meegeren was "perhaps the only forger whose most famous works a layman would immediately identify as fake.") How do forgers set about doing their work? One chapter is titled "Forgery 101"; it contains instructions from which any prospective forger would benefit. And why does our estimation of a work of art change when we discover it is a fake? 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.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

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)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

In 1945, just after the end of World War II in Europe, a Dutch detective looking for artwork looted by the Nazis and for Nazi collaborators questioned a high-living Dutch artist named Han van Meegeren. Had van Meegeren, the detective inquired, been involved in the sale to Hermann Göring of a priceless Vermeer painting? Upon further questioning, van Meegeren confessed that he had painted this Vermeer himself, along with other Vermeers then in the collections of several major Dutch art museums, and so began the unraveling of "the greatest art hoax of the twentieth century." While other books-including Frank Wynne's I Was Vermeer and Lord Kilbracken's Van Meegeren: Master Forger-have covered this intriguing case of forgery, greed, and detection, this account by Dolnick, author of the Edgar Award-winning The Rescue Artist, is especially strong in plot development and characterization. It also has a unique point of view: that van Meegeren was not a genius and master forger but rather his "true distinction was [that] he is perhaps the only forger whose most famous works a layman would immediately identify as fake." Recommended for public and academic library art and true-crime collections. (Illustrations not seen.)
—Marcia Welsh

Kirkus Reviews
Mesmerizing account of an amateur artist who made millions selling forged paintings to art-obsessed Nazis and business tycoons. Veteran science journalist Dolnick (The Rescue Artist: The True Story of Art, Thieves, and the Hunt for a Missing Masterpiece, 2005, etc.) brings his expertise in art theft, criminal psychology and military history to a scintillating portrait of Dutch painter Han van Meegeren (1889-1947). Humiliated by critics who dismissed his work as lackluster, Van Meegeren turned to cunningly crafting paintings that he peddled during the 1930s and '40s as the work of revered 17th-century master Johannes Vermeer. The polished, fast-paced narrative captures the surreal mood in Nazi-occupied Holland. As German forces killed more than 70 percent of the Jewish population, the highest toll in Europe, Hitler and his leading aide, Hermann Goering, pillaged museums and private homes for paintings, sculpture and jewelry. In a rivalry Dolnick likens to a perverse schoolyard competition, the men also vied for treasures from art dealers enticed by the Nazis' looted cash. Enter Van Meegeren, a disaffected artist who watched with glee as the same critics who had ridiculed his original work swooned over the technically competent but off-kilter compositions he sold for princely sums as "lost Vermeers." In compelling prose, Dolnick details the doctored canvases, phony paint and fake bills of sale Van Meegeren painstakingly created to achieve his grand deceit. In addition to Nazis and wealthy Europeans, the author notes, he also duped affluent Americans such as Andrew Mellon. After a high-profile 1947 trial during which the con artist demonstrated his techniques, the Dutch government found VanMeegeren guilty of forgery and fraud. He died less than two months later, before serving his one-year prison sentence. Energetic and authoritative.
New York Times Book Review
“Dolnick…tells his story engagingly and with a light touch. He has a novelist’s talent for characterization, and he raises fascinating questions.”
Boston Globe
“Dolnick brilliantly re-creates the circumstances that made possible one of the most audacious frauds of the 20th century. And in doing so Dolnick plumbs the nature of fraud itself . . . an incomparable page turner.”
Los Angeles Times
“When it comes to forgery and its ability to fascinate . . . Edward Dolnick has hit the mother lode. . . . Dolnick more than does it justice, drawing on his knowledge of a wide range of subjects.”
Philadelphia Inquirer
“Pacing and prose as gripping as those of the best mystery novelist. . . . The Forger’s Spell is simply spellbinding.”
Chicago Sun-Times
“The Forger’s Spell is an excellent read, a swift and astute narrative written from many complex perspectives to great effect.”
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
“An engaging and highly amusing account of a clever craftsman. . . . On all those levels this is a delightful foray into art history and psychology”
Booklist
Vividly portrays a staggeringly successful Dutch art forger. . . . Dolnick covers it all. . . . Dolnick’s zesty, incisive, and entertaining inquiry illuminates the hidden dimensionsand explicates the far-reaching implications of this fascinating and provocative collision of art and ambition, deception and war.
Newsday
“Dolnick weaves a lot of fascinating information into a highly readable narrative. . . . The Forger’s Spell is a terrific story.”
Washington Post Book World
“Gripping historical narrative. . . . Dolnick, a veteran science writer, knows his way around a canvas. . . . The Forger’s Spell has raised provocative questions about the nature of art and the psychology of deception.”
Christian Science Monitor
“Riveting new art thriller. . . . Likely to captivate not just readers moved by war, art, and the art of deception, but anyone interested in human vanity and our sometimes baffling ability to see only what we want to see.”
Thomas Hoving
“This is the first book on art forgery that really gets to the bottom of the Han van Meegeren tale of chicanery and double dealing. A spirited and provocative read.”
Lynn Nicholas
“Edward Dolnick’s Forger’s Spell gives us a well-researched and highly readable account of the underworld of forgers, corrupt dealers, and collectors in Nazi occupied Europe. . . . Wonderful theater, full of fascinating stories, this is a great cautionary tale for all in the art world.”
The Barnes & Noble Review
For all its psychological twists and historical turns, this nonfictional thriller poses a simple question: How could a painting that one day is worth millions of dollars, the next day be worth almost nothing? The easy answer: the painting is revealed to be a forgery. Of course, in this complex case, layers of deception and intrigue underlie what appeared to be a straightforward scam, one of the most notorious hoaxes in the history of art. In the early 20th century, Han van Meegeren, a mediocre Dutch painter, succeeded in convincing an astonishing group of connoisseurs and buyers that a roomful of his forgeries were in fact undiscovered Vermeers. Edward Dolnick, who previously wrote about the heist of Munch's Scream in The Rescue Artist, here explores the full dimensions of this amazing tale by delving into all sorts of byways: the limits of connoisseurship, the craft of forgery, the mystique of Vermeer, and the Nazi plundering of European art. It's a narrative balancing act that Dolnick handles with great skill and insight.

Three days after V-E Day in 1945, the Dutch resistance fighter Joop Piller knocked on the door of one of the fanciest houses in all of Amsterdam. A captain in the provisional postwar government, Piller was determined to figure out how the occupant of this house managed to live in such apparent splendor during the harsh years of Nazi occupation. The suspected collaborator, Han van Meegeren, still dapper at 55, indulged his taste for fine champagne and expensive prostitutes throughout the war years, throwing lavish parties with little concern for appearances. He was, after all, a great artist. Or so he thought. In any case, his name appeared in records of an art sale made to none other than Reichsmarschall Hermann Goering, Hitler's second-in-command and, like the Fuehrer himself, voracious in his acquisition of Europe's great art works. Coercing reluctant dealers and museums throughout the continent, and relying on government funds, the two ranking Nazis competed for the Italian and Dutch masters most of all.

Art owned by Jews was, of course, easily looted by the Germans. The vain and flamboyant Goering, for one, grabbed the entire inventory of Jacques Goudstikker, a famous dealer, who left behind over 1,000 quality works when he fled to England. (Goudstikker did not survive the journey, but his memory prevails. The Bruce Museum in Connecticut currently has on display much of the collection, now rightfully restored to his survivors.) In their passion for accumulation -- one can hardly call it appreciation, since most of the Nazi acquisitions languished uncrated -- Hitler and Goering bought up every Breughel, Rubens, and Rembrandt within their reach. But what they coveted most was work by Vermeer, the enigmatic genius whose mystique is only enhanced by his meager production -- to this day, only 30-plus paintings are accepted as genuine.

Into this void stepped van Meegeren. Like Hitler himself, van Meegeren loathed the modern art that was garnering critical acclaim throughout Europe in the early decades of the century. But unlike Hitler, van Meegeren managed a decent career painting society portraits, biblical scenes, and local landscapes. The critics, though, were brutal, mocking his wide-eyed Madonnas and kitschy farm animals. Determined to get his revenge on an unappreciative cognoscenti, van Meegeren started off his career as a forger with some simple De Hooch and Hals imitations that quickly found buyers in prewar Holland, with its nouveau-riche industrialists eager to invest in fine art. Van Meegeren surveyed the art scene -- from museum curators to the distinguished scholars and critics -- and saw a ripe opportunity: The frenzy for acquiring art was matched by a mania for uncovering hidden masterpieces.

Which brings us to the next major player in this sordid drama: Abraham Bredius, a distinguished, if arrogant, Dutch connoisseur who had chalked up a number of discoveries -- a few Rembrandts and a couple of Vermeers (since disputed). In his dotage, Bredius was still sought out by dealers, buyers, and curators for his pronouncements on given paintings. And his opinions relied on little more than his "eye," that learned but fallible device cited by so many connoisseurs, whose authority was what we would call taste, supplemented by impressionistic gushes. We've seen these kinds of highbrow shenanigans before in the shadier dealings of Duveen and Berenson, a relationship that enriched both dealer and the scholar who declared a work authentic.

Sensing the frenzy for Vermeers, van Meegeren got to work, experimenting with materials in his effort to manufacture 17th-century paintings that could pass as real. Dolnick explores this technical side with a detective's interest in detail, and it's fascinating. But the most important problem was solved by a very contemporary product: Leo Baekeland's invention of plastic. Having mastered the scientific side of forgery, van Meegeren had to decide on his subjects, and in this he was quite shrewd, not simply imitating the known Vermeers but exploiting a crucial gap in the painter's career. Though little is certain about Vermeer's creative chronology, his work falls into two distinct stylistic periods, with an apparent gap in between. Van Meegeren saw his opening: paintings that would reflect a turn toward religious subjects by Vermeer.

With a reputable intermediary, the devious van Meegeren reached out to the pompous Bredius, who declared in art journals these newly discovered Vermeers and explained how they fit perfectly into the course of his career. Between 1937 and 1943, van Meegeren produced six "Vermeers" that sold for increasingly higher amounts, the equivalent of millions in current values. Not only that, each fake was measured against a previous fake, creating a small universe of forgeries that fooled many of the smartest critics, scholars, and curators.

In retrospect, what's really astounding is how little the paintings in question look like Vermeers. In fact, as Dolnick demonstrates, they resemble the sentimental figurative art of their time. With their New Testament themes, these sickly looking Christs resemble Vermeer by way of shlock artist Walter Keane, not Caravaggio, as van Meegeren's willing dupes argued. It was only a matter of time before the "amiable psychopath" Goering managed to buy one of the new Vermeers, Christ at Emmaus, the painting that would lead to the unraveling of Van Meegeren's grand deception.

Few believed van Meegeren when he revealed his handiwork -- his forgeries were already appearing in scholarly books on Vermeer. But he had a selfish motive. It was a worse crime to have sold a genuine Vermeer to the Nazis than to have committed fraud, and van Meegeren painted his way to the truth, creating yet another forgery under the postwar court's scrutiny. In an irony hard to appreciate, he was celebrated by his countrymen for having deceived the evil occupiers and was sentenced to a single year, though he died before serving it out.

Dolnick interviews modern forgers and samples the literature of magic and con artists to help explain a story that's not a whodunit but a howdunit. How did a greedy third-rate painter, bent on revenge against his critics, deceive the best eyes in Europe (not to mention a few evil Nazis)? Dolnick resorts to the simplest bromide: we see what we look for. And in this wild and revealing case, he's clearly right. --Thomas DePietro

Thomas DePietro, a former contributing editor of Kirkus Reviews, has also published in Commonweal, The Nation, and The New York Times Book Review. He has also edited Conversations with Don DeLillo, and his book on Kingsley Amis is forthcoming in 2008.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061844591
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 10/13/2009
  • Sold by: HARPERCOLLINS
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 384
  • Sales rank: 129,662
  • File size: 6 MB

Meet the Author

Edward Dolnick is the author of Down the Great Unknown, The Forger’s Spell, and the Edgar Award-winning The Rescue Artist. A former chief science writer at the Boston Globe, he lives with his wife near Washington, D.C.

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Read an Excerpt

The Forger's Spell
A True Story of Vermeer, Nazis, and the Greatest Art Hoax of the Twentieth Century

Chapter One

A Knock On The Door

Amsterdam
May 1945

Until almost the very end, Han van Meegeren thought he had committed the perfect crime. He had pocketed more than $3 million—the equivalent of about $30 million today—and scarcely a trace of scandal clung to his name. Why should it, when his dupes never even knew that someone had played them for fools and taken them for a fortune?

Even now, with two uniformed strangers at his door saying something about an investigation, he thought he might get away with it. The two men seemed polite, not belligerent. No doubt they had been impressed by the grandeur of 321 Keizersgracht. Maybe they really did have only a few routine questions to sort out. Van Meegeren decided to keep his secrets to himself.

Van Meegeren was a small, dapper man of fifty-five with a tidy mustache and gray hair swept back from his forehead. His house was one of the most luxurious in Amsterdam, on one of the city's poshest streets, a neighborhood of bankers and merchant kings. Imposing but not showy, in keeping with the Dutch style, the house rose four stories high and looked out on a postcard canal. Most impressive of all in space-starved Amsterdam, where every staircase rises as steeply as a ladder, the house was nearly as wide as it was tall. The front hall was tiled in marble, and envious rumors had it—falsely—that the hall was so big that guests at Van Meegeren's parties raced their bicycles around it. On the other hand, the rumors about indoor skating were true.Van Meegeren had found a way to convert his basement to an ice rink so that jaded partygoers could skate in style.

Joop Piller, the lead investigator on this spring day, would not have been a guest at those parties. A Jew in Holland—and Holland lost a greater proportion of Jews in World War II than any other Western European nation—Piller had fought in the Dutch resistance from 1940 to 1945. In years to come, many would embellish their wartime credentials, but Piller was the real thing. His last mission had been to set up a network to rescue Allied pilots after the Battle of Arnhem and smuggle them to safety.

Piller had only begun to learn about Van Meegeren. Holland in 1945 was short of everything but rumors, and Piller had picked up some of the gossip swirling around Amsterdam. Van Meegeren had friends in all the worst—which was to say, pro-German—circles; he was a painter and an art collector; he was a connoisseur of old masters and young women; he had lived in France and had won that country's national lottery.

Skeptical by nature, Piller was inclined to wave all the talk aside. Still, it was easy to see why the rumors flew. What kind of artist lived like this? Rembrandt, perhaps, but Van Meegeren was no Rembrandt. He was, according to all that Piller had heard, a middling painter of old-fashioned taste and no special distinction. He was apparently an art dealer as well, but he seemed to have made no more of a splash as a dealer than as a painter. He supposedly had a taste for hookers and high living and a reputation as a host who never let a glass stay unfilled. Other tales hinted at a kind of self-indulgent posturing. He had brought his guitar to a friend's funeral because "it might get boring."

The bare facts of the artist's biography, as Piller would begin to assemble them over the next few days, only deepened the mystery. Van Meegeren was a Dutchman born in the provincial town of Deventer. He had studied art and architecture in Delft, the hometown of the great Johannes Vermeer. He had won prizes for his art, but he was as out of tune with the current age as his favorite teacher, who had taught Van Meegeren to prepare his own paints like his predecessors of three centuries before. Despite the occasional triumph, Van Meegeren hardly seemed marked for greatness. In college he got his girlfriend pregnant, married her at twenty-two, and settled down uneasily near Delft. There he tried, without much success, to support his family with his art.

Van Meegeren spent the 1920s in The Hague, where life improved. He gained a reputation as a playboy and a portrait painter whose skill was perfectly adequate but whose client list was positively dazzling. In 1932 (by this time, with a new wife), he left Holland for the French Riviera. In the small town of Roquebrune, he moved into a spacious and isolated villa perched high on a cliff above the sun-dappled Mediterranean. As the Great Depression strengthened its grip, Van Meegeren somehow continued to thrive. In 1937, after five years in Roquebrune, he moved to even more imposing quarters, purchasing a mansion with a dozen bedrooms and a vineyard in Nice.

But at his first meeting with the little man in the big house, Piller knew only that Van Meegeren's name had turned up in the paperwork of a dodgy art dealer. And so, when Piller took out his notebook and posed the question that would set the whole complicated story in motion, he had suspicions but not much more. Tell me, Mr. Van Meegeren, he asked, how did you come to be involved in selling a Vermeer?

The Forger's Spell
A True Story of Vermeer, Nazis, and the Greatest Art Hoax of the Twentieth Century
. Copyright © by Edward Dolnick. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Table of Contents


Preface     xiii
Occupied Holland
A Knock on the Door     3
Looted Art     6
The Outbreak of War     9
Quasimodo     14
The End of Forgery?     18
Forgery 101     22
Occupied Holland     26
The War Against the Jews     30
The Forger's Challenge     33
Bargaining with Vultures     40
Van Meegeren's Tears     44
Hermann Goering and Johannes VerMeer
Hermann Goering     51
Adolf Hitler     55
Chasing Vermeer     57
Goering's Art Collection     62
Insights from a Forger     66
The Amiable Psychopath     77
Goering's Prize     82
Vermeer     85
Johannes Vermeer, Superstar     88
A Ghost's Fingerprints     93
The Selling of Christ at Emmaus
Two Forged Vermeers     105
The Expert's Eye     109
A Forger's Lessons     115
Bredius     121
"Without Any Doubt!"     127
The Uncanny Valley     132
Betting the Farm     137
Lady and Gentleman at the Harpsichord     139
Dirk Hannema     145
The Choice     150
The Caravaggio Connection     163
In the Forger's Studio     167
Christ at Emmaus     170
Underground Tremors     173
The Summer of 1937     179
The Lamb at the Bank     186
"Every Inch a Vermeer"     192
Two Weeks and Counting     198
Too Late!     201
The Last Hurdle     203
The Unveiling     207
Anatomy of a Hoax
Scandal in the Archives     213
All in the Timing     218
Believing Is Seeing     223
The Men Who Knew Too Much     227
Blue Monday     234
He Who Hesitates     239
The Great Changeover     243
The Chase
The Secret in the Salt Mine     249
The Dentist's Tale     252
Goering on the Run     256
The Nest Egg     260
Trapped!     262
"I Painted It Myself!"     265
Command Performance     272
The Evidence Piles Up     276
The Trial     280
The Players Make Their Exits     288
Epilogue      291
Notes     295
Bibliography     325
Acknowledgments     331
Index     333
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 31 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 31 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 9, 2009

    How the Art Forger Works-a detailed examination of a 20th century hoax

    This was a selection for a women's book club and we were divided on the book. 70% of us thought it interesting, with detailed imagery of how an art forgery is created and a real profile into what makes people fall for such hoaxes. The remaining members were looking for a novel or simple story and were not able to get past the detailed descriptions. And the author does go into detail. Getting the proper paints, canvass, even framing, all factor in to the artist's ability to create a believeable forgery. That this particular forger was able to fool not only respected critics in Holland in the 1920's and '30's but even Herman Goering makes for an exciting tale as well. The author weaves his story between the details of creating a forgery, the story of the forger, and even some detail into why Goering was so easy to fool. Those of us who enjoyed this book couldn't put it down. This is helped by short chapters and a lively writing style which makes the art process understandable to the non-artist. As a book for discussion, there was considerable talk about the nature of creating a believeable forgery and how we prepare ourselves to be gullible, not only in art forgery, but in life itself.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 12, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Caveat Emptor

    If the world must have more Vermeers, someone will paint them and the buyers will believe they are genuine. This aptly titled book tells how Han van Meegeren cast his spell over those needing to own or to discover a "Vermeer." Although each successive canvas was hokier and less artistic, van Meegeren excelled in duplicating the physical characteristics of centuries-old paintings. He made a lot of money with his forgeries and nearly got away with the scam. I do recommend this easy-to-read tale of human frailty.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted September 12, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Well done!

    This is a book that is better than it should be! Although discussing a topic that might have been dry and boring, Edward Dolnick is able to keep the tone lively and interesting. Good writing need not be forced or sensational or overly clever. In this book Dolnick shows himself to be a writer who can tell a good story in a simple and straightforward way.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 29, 2011

    Great Career Tips

    In these difficult economic times any alternative job training is a MUST!! Okay, just kidding. A great book for art and art history lovers! Fodder for interesting conversations.

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  • Posted February 24, 2011

    great read

    a little confusing at first but all falls into place at the end.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 27, 2009

    The Forger's Spell

    A thrilling book, an exciting read - and very informative

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 21, 2009

    First rate

    Excellent insights into Vermeer,Nazi thuggery,and the art world.Very well-written. My wife enjoyed it as much as I did.

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  • Posted November 12, 2009

    Interesting on many levels

    Dolnick has found a niche in both art and WWII histories to illuminate. Very interesting the tools used by forgers: techniques, old and new materials, marketing and psychology. He did a great job of explaining how experts could be fooled by awful forgeries obvious to untrained eyes.

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  • Posted October 28, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    The Forger's Spell is well worth the time.

    I've had a ton of books on my list to read and then this one came along for a discussion group. I loved it. The Forger's Spell is a great read for those who like detail. The author sometimes goes off on a tangent but always returns to his point. This book is a great avenue for those interested in art and history.

    My discussion group was split. Some readers found it too detailed. Others, like myself, loved and couldn't put it down.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 19, 2009

    informative

    Very informative book, however not easy reading.

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  • Posted September 12, 2009

    Amazing Story of a Master Art Forger

    This true story is stranger than fiction. An absorbing story of a great con pulled on the top Nazis during WWII. An art forger fools the best in the art trade. Are his paintings still hanging in major museums? For anyone interested in art history, especially the works of Vermeer, this is a fascinating look at the art world and the blind greed of collectors.

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  • Posted August 28, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    A Thriller for Art Lovers

    The Forger's Spell is unlike any other Art History book you've ever read. And if you've never read an Art History book, you should try this one. It starts with the brilliant but poverty stricken Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer who was so buried in obscurity during his lifetime he didn't even sign some of his works. Centuries later, when a Vermeer was the hottest commodity in the art world, a cunning forger decides to copy his style for his own devious ends. The phony Vermeers he painstakingly creates are so convincing that two of the most evil collectors in the world covet them. Adolf Hitler and Herman Goering both want to get their hands on the faux Vermeers when the Nazi's conquer and loot the Netherlands.

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  • Posted June 14, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Hard to believe... but it's true!

    This book was a great read. Unfortunately, it doesn't always stay in the WW II time period- some chapters are in the 1990s some in the 1970s, etc. However, the author always manages to keep the story flowing. It's hard to believe, when you look at the pictures included, that anyone could fall for what Van Meegeren did- but they fell for it hard. It's almost unbelievable, but there's good research by the author to back-up everything. It adds to the literature already available about how the Nazis plundered Europe of the most famous pieces of art. The author gives a detailed step-by-step process about how Ver Meergen managed to forge paintings. Great read! (This would be a great movie!)

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