16. Dutch authorities prosecuted van Meegeren for fraud in 1947
In October, 1947, Dutch prosecutors brought van Meegeren to trial for fraud, based on his confession of creating several authorities. The Goering painting appeared among the collection of works alleged to have been forged. Van Meegeren faced a maximum sentence of two years if convicted. To aid their decision, the court commissioned a panel to examine the paintings van Meegeren claimed to have forged. The paintings displayed in the court room and examined by the experts included 8 alleged Vermeer and Frans Hals works. Commissioners, art experts from France, Great Britain, the Netherlands, and Belgium. A chemical expert from the Royal Museums of Fine Arts in Belgium conducted tests which revealed the use of Bakelite in the paintings. Bakelite did not exist during the lifetime of Johannes Vermeer.
The commissioners found other evidence of the paintings being of modern vintage, rather than 17th century origin. Though some disagreed, and continued to argue that several of the paintings were genuine works of Vermeer, as recently as in the 1990s. The court sided with the commission’s findings, and convicted van Meegeren of fraud and forgery, on November 12, 1947. Rather than accept the prosecutor’s demand for a two-year sentence, the maximum under the law, it sentenced him to one year in prison. Van Meegeren remained free for two weeks, while preparing an appeal. He returned to his luxurious estate to consider his options. He enjoyed enormous popularity with the Dutch people, who regarded him as a war hero.