How Many "Old Master" Paintings Have Been Found To Be Fakes?

I just read a fascinating book about the notorious Dutch forger/artist , Hans Van Meegeheren. This guy admitted to having forged paintings, and passed them off as the works of artists like Hals, Vermeer, and Rembrandt. He was obviously pretty good, because he wasn’t exposed until years later. I believe he did serve time in jail, but he succeeded in fooling the best art historians in the Netherlands, and even sold fake Vermeers to none other than Her,mann Goering.
Anyway, given that museums pay out HUGE sums for paintings, and the fact that it is VERY embarrassing to admit you’ve been screwed, are then any reliable estimates about how much of the world’s “Great Art” isin fact faked?
I imagine that a modern forger would be VERY hard to detect-he could analyze the paints, technique-even use a computer and scanner to imitate an artist’s brush strokes. Is art forgery a big business? And, say a big museum (like the NY Museum or the Reichsmuseum) finds out that the Vermeer they’ve been showing is a forgery-what do they usually do? Can you get your money back?:smack:

In fact, if I recall this correctly, he ended up exposing himself. It turned out that the penalty for fraud was a short jail sentence, while the penalty for financial colloboration with the enemy (his selling Vermeers to Goering) could be punished by death.

I doubt that we’ll ever really find out.

The victims (museums+collectors) have no interest what-so-ever in exposing there forgeries after they’ve already been paid for, they would lose all re-sale value and be a complete waste for the museum.

In the case of public collections, it’s not as if it is only a museum’s own curators who get to see the paintings. Other experts, including curators from rival museums, can usually get access even to those pieces in storage. Therefore, even if it is in the interest of the museum’s own staff to keep quiet (a debatable assumption), there are plenty of qualified people in a position to spot a fake and for whom there would be lots of professional qudos to be gained for doing so.

Given this, most museums know that it makes more sense for them to be honest. Major museums were never going to sell important pieces, so their theoretical commercial value has no real meaning. The curator who authenticated the piece (assuming that they are still alive) might find it embarassing, but their colleagues or successors are unlikely to. So what if a curator realises that one of his or her predecessors made a mistake? If anything, pointing this out will only enhance his or her professional reputation.

The much murkier area is the issue of attributions, but that too is something which gets debated in the open. If an art historian thinks that a painting has been misattributed, there is nothing to stop them saying so in a suitable academic journal. It happens all the time.