Courtauld Institute 'forgery' may have hung in Vermeer's home
He made his name as the world's most ingenious art forger. So when the Courtauld Institute of Art was presented with a copy of a Dutch Golden Age painting by the arch-counterfeiter Hans van Meegeren, the gallery's director accepted the work as a fake of the highest order.
Now, 50 years after The Procuress was deemed a forgery - albeit a brilliant one - it has proved to be a genuine 17th-century painting of the Dutch Golden period and may even have hung in the house of the Dutch master Johannes Vermeer.
This week, The Art Newspaper will reveal how the Courtauld acquired the work in 1960 when it was donated as a van Meegeren, duly accepting it as a rare offering from one of the most uniquely- gifted forgers of all time.
Van Meegeren was born in 1889 and set out to become an artist. But after critics decried his work as derivative, he felt they had destroyed his career and decided to prove his talent by forging the works of some of the world's most famous artists, including Vermeer. He replicated the styles and colours of the Dutch Golden Age artists so exactly that critics and experts celebrated his work as genuine and utterly exquisite. He was exposed in 1945 after being accused of selling a newly-discovered Vermeer to the Nazi Hermann Goering.
His most successful forgery was a version of Supper at Emmaus - originally by the baroque painter Caravaggio - in the style of Vermeer, which he created in 1937. It was so convincing that it was hailed by art experts as the finest Vermeer they had ever seen.
The latest research at the Courtauld has revealed that The Procuress is a version of the 1622 brothel scene by the eminent Dutch painter, Dirck van Baburen, which is depicted in the background of two works by Vermeer. It is believed the Courtauld's painting may be the work that once hung in Vermeer's home in Delft.
According to a 1641 inventory, Vermeer's mother-in-law, Maria Thins, owned "a …