17. Van Meegeren did not have long to revel in his popularity
Other than his period in the custody of the military authorities, Han van Meegeren enjoyed a profligate lifestyle for more than four decades. He drank heavily throughout his life, and also used both morphine and opium. He chain-smoked unfiltered cigarettes from rising in the morning until retiring at night. During the war years, his lifestyle began to erode his skills with brush and palette, but by then the majority of his forgeries were completed. His painting done before witnesses while in military custody revealed some of his deterioration, though some attributed it to his working before witnesses and under pressure.
Immensely popular, he spent the two weeks allowed for him to prepare his appeal or settle his affairs at home. He had the freedom of the neighborhood and moved about without hindrance. On November 26, the last day of the time allowed for his freedom, he suffered a massive heart attack. Sent to an Amsterdam hospital, he remained there until December 29, when a second heart attack struck him. He died the following day. Following his death, the Dutch courts ruled his estate should be liquidated and his property auctioned. The money thus raised would be used to compensate the purchasers of his forged paintings, and to pay back taxes on the sale of the forgeries.