The Independent reports on the revelation that a hitherto regarded fake at the Courtauld Institute, has turned out to be a genuine masterpiece. The painting, The Procuress- above- is now thought to be a work from the 17thcentury. It entered the Courtauld just after the war as a registered fake, a copy thought to have been produced by one of the most infamous of forgers- Hans van Meegeren. The Dutch forger went in for imitations of Vermeer with a dash of Caravaggio, most notably the forger's Supper at Emmaus of 1937. The fusion of different styles was one of the factors that led to van Meegeren's downfall. You just couldn't have blatant Caravaggesque effects in Vermeer's art. Another reason may have been HVM's figures looked nothing like HVM, the master. The fact that they shared the same initials may inspired van Meegeren to become a Vermeer forger.
The Courtauld now believe that this "fake" Procuress may even have hung in Vermeer's own house. A similar painting by Dirk van Barburen of the School of Utrecht, can be seen in our National Gallery's- A Woman Seated at the Virginal, of 1671. That may be so, but it's ridiculous to say this once fake work was actually painted by the Master of Delft himself as one journalist has reported. The expert opinion is that it is an anonymous artist of the 17thcentury, although wether it's actually by van Barburen himself remains a matter of speculation.
The Independent has this on the history of the painting:
The painting was presented to the Courtauld by Professor Geoffrey Webb, a specialist on historic architecture. He had been a senior arts officer in Germany just after the Second World War, and apparently received it in the Netherlands as a gift for helping with the restitution of works of art. He believed it was a Van Meegeren fake which had been recovered by the Dutch authorities in 1945 from the forger's villa in Nice. When Anthony Blunt, the then-director of the Courtauld, accepted The Procuress, few questions were asked. A few suspicious queries raised in the 1970s by the Dutch scholar Marijke van den Brandhofwere not followed up, as all appeared convinced it was a product of the forger. It was later lent to three exhibitions on fakes as a fine example of a forgery. Two other versions of The Procuress were thought to be the original until now. The first was owned by the Rijks Museum in Amsterdam, but in 1949 another emerged from an English private collection. It was auctioned at Christie's before being bought by Boston's Museum of Fine Arts.
I'm vastly amused by the fact that a real masterpiece was lent to exhibitions as an example of a fake; but what makes me smile much more is the mention of Blunt. What I find funny is that the Procuress hung on the Courtauld's walls during Blunt's directorship- a real artwork which was deemed fake. But in Blunt's flat above the Courtauld, a painting by Poussin- now known to be fake- hung over Blunt's mantelpiece regarded by the director, who was convinced it was real.