- Experts suggest that forgery can’t have as much value as the original art. Yet Van Meegeren’s forgery of Vermeer was taken as original.
- Meegeren’s forgery raises questions. Is forgery automatically inferior?
- Alfred Lessing says forgeries are worse because they lack originality in their vision.
- Therefore Van Meegeren’s forgery lacks the historical significance that makes Vermeer’s work great.
The argument starts by introducing the common assumption that forgery is inferior. Then the author casts doubt on this by introducing Han Van Meegeren’s beautiful forgery. Finally, the author supports the original assumption by clarifying that forgeries necessarily lack originality.
To be clear, the author agrees that Van Meegeren’s The Disciples at Emmaus is an incredible, beautiful painting. The author simply argues that it has less merit because it’s necessarily less original than Vermeer’s paintings. This is a reasonable point.
Vermeer created a whole new style. Van Meegeren merely learned to imitate this style. That makes Van Meegeren an excellent painter, but a less original one than Vermeer was.
Note that “forgery” does not have to equal “copy”. The Disciples at Emmaus was an original painting. Vermeer had never painted it. So why was it a forgery? Because it precisely copied the style of Vermeer. It’s forgery to make a painting in the style of Vermeer and tell everyone that Vermeer made it.
Note also that the passage makes a strong difference between aesthetic value and artistic value. Van Meegeren’s painting was beautiful, and therefore it has incredible aesthetic value. However, since it was not original, it has less artistic value than Vermeer’s paintings. (Lessing isn’t saying Van Meegeren has no artistic merit, mind you. He just had less than Vermeer did.)
By the way, Van Meegeren’s story is fascinating. He was put on trial in Holland after the war, because The Disciples at Emmaus ended up in Herman Goering’s possession. Van Meegeren was put on trial for selling dutch cultural heritage to the Nazis.
Van Meegeren’s defense was that he hadn’t sold a Vermeer. He had painted it himself!
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