Jacques van Meegeren
Jacques van Meegeren born Jacques Henri Emil van Meegeren, was a Dutch Illustrator
An Illustrator is a narrative artist who specializes in enhancing writing by providing a visual representation that corresponds to the content of the associated text...

 and painter
Painting is the practice of applying paint, pigment, color or other medium to a surface . The application of the medium is commonly applied to the base with a brush but other objects can be used. In art, the term painting describes both the act and the result of the action. However, painting is...


He is also considered to be a forger of the work of his father Han van Meegeren
Han van Meegeren
Han van Meegeren , born Henricus Antonius van Meegeren, was a Dutch painter and portraitist, and is considered to be one of the most ingenious art forgers of the 20th century....

. He was, however, less gifted and his forgeries adversely affected the reputation of his father’s work.


Jacques van Meegeren was born 26 August 1912 in the little village of Rijswijk
Rijswijk is a town and municipality in the western Netherlands, in the province of South Holland. It is a suburb of The Hague and covers an area of 14.48 km² ....

 near The Hague
The Hague
The Hague is the capital city of the province of South Holland in the Netherlands. With a population of 500,000 inhabitants , it is the third largest city of the Netherlands, after Amsterdam and Rotterdam...

, Holland, four months after the marriage of his parents. His future life would be affected by the notoriety of his father and the exotic descent of his mother who stemmed from an Indonesian royal family . In 1915 his sister Inez was born.

Jacques adored his father and loved being allowed to go to his father’s studio
A studio is an artist's or worker's workroom, or the catchall term for an artist and his or her employees who work within that studio. This can be for the purpose of architecture, painting, pottery , sculpture, scrapbooking, photography, graphic design, filmmaking, animation, radio or television...

 and help him with cleaning brushes and suchlike. When he grew older his father took him along to art dealer
Art dealer
An art dealer is a person or company that buys and sells works of art. Art dealers' professional associations serve to set high standards for accreditation or membership and to support art exhibitions and shows.-Role:...

s and museums teaching him how to look at and assess works of art and paintings. He soon began to sketch and draw, indicating he had some talent for it.

Stay in Indonesia
In 1923 his parents divorced. It is not certain whether Jacques followed his mother to Paris at that time or remained in The Hague, it is known, however, that in 1927 he went with his mother and sister to Sumatra
Sumatra is an island in western Indonesia, westernmost of the Sunda Islands. It is the largest island entirely in Indonesia , and the sixth largest island in the world at 473,481 km2 with a population of 50,365,538...

. They went to live there with his mother’s family who were directly related to the Sultan of Serdang
The state of Serdang was an ancient Malay-Indonesian monarchy, neighboring the Sultanate of Deli, to which it lost some territory.-Rulers:*1728 - 1782 Tuanku Umar Johan Pahlawan Alam Shah bin Tuanku Panglima Paderap [Kejeruan Junjungan], Raja of Serdang...

. Jacques attended the government HBS – a high school – in nearby Medan
- Demography :The city is Indonesia's fourth most populous after Jakarta, Surabaya, and Bandung, and Indonesia's largest city outside of Java island. Much of the population lies outside its city limits, especially in Deli Serdang....

, traveling every day in a little steam train. A charming incident occurred at that time :

Jacques and his mother made a visit to the Sultan of Serdang. This Sultan had a small harem
Harem refers to the sphere of women in what is usually a polygynous household and their enclosed quarters which are forbidden to men...

 of eleven wives, the youngest of whom was very beautiful. He introduced his nephew to this woman and instructed her to entertain his guest as best as she could. Jacques enjoyed the most idyllic moments with this young woman;
it was an exotic way for a boy of 16 to be initiated into the secrets of love.

Choice of a profession
In 1930, when Jacques turned 18, he came back from the East Indies. His father was happy to see his son and took him with him to his many friends, fellow-artists of the The Hague Art Circle, painters and actors. They visited theatres and restaurants; for Jacques it was a joyful introduction to the high life of The Hague where father Van Meegeren spent his money freely.

Father van Meegeren warned Jacques not to become an artist as it was too uncertain a profession. Jacques was sufficiently clever to attend university and he had a talent for technical themes. He thus went to study electrical engineering at the Sorbonne
The Sorbonne is an edifice of the Latin Quarter, in Paris, France, which has been the historical house of the former University of Paris...

 in Paris. In addition to his studies he continued to paint and draw just as his father had done in his youth.


Student years
From 1931 on Jacques studied in Paris
Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...

. He lived in an attractive studio on Boulevard Raspail
Boulevard Raspail
Boulevard Raspail is a boulevard of Paris, in France.Its orientation is north-south, and joins boulevard Saint-Germain with place Denfert-Rochereau whilst traversing 7th, 6th and 14th arrondissements...

 and enjoyed an ample allowance from his father. The following scene provides a good picture of his life:

Jacques received a letter from his cousins, the Prince Royal of Serdang and the Prince Royal of Deli, Sumatra . They came to visit the Colonial Exhibition
Colonial exhibition
A colonial exhibition was a type of international exhibition intended to boost trade and bolster popular support for the various colonial empires during the New Imperialism period, which started in the 1880s with the scramble for Africa....

 in Paris that featured exotic temples and pavilions, with the Balinese
Balinese people
The Balinese population of 3.0 million live mostly on the island of Bali, making up 89% of the island's population. There are also significant populations on the island of Lombok, and in the eastern-most regions of Java The Balinese population of 3.0 million (1.5% of Indonesia's population) live...

 style pavilion of the Dutch East Indies
Dutch East Indies
The Dutch East Indies was a Dutch colony that became modern Indonesia following World War II. It was formed from the nationalised colonies of the Dutch East India Company, which came under the administration of the Netherlands government in 1800....

 being the finest of all. The princes asked Jacques to make up their daily program. During the day they had to pay official visits, but after these they changed into street clothing and their jewels were hidden in the hotel safe, but they still wore their velvet topies (Indonesian caps). In all the Parisian nightclubs the group frequented, Jacques was seen as a kind of leader. The most attractive Parisian and foreign “vedettes” were nightly in their company. The famous French actress Mistinguett
Mistinguett was a French actress and singer, whose birth name was Jeanne Bourgeois. She was at one time the best-paid female entertainer in the world...

 was besotted with the Prince Royal of Deli and followed him everywhere. The partying lasted a month.

Jacques kept the reputation of being an Indian prince and became popular among the female students. The good life continued.

Relationship with his father
After his studies ended, Jacques worked for a period in the electro technical industry but a regular lifestyle did not suit him. He became a journalist and illustrator
An Illustrator is a narrative artist who specializes in enhancing writing by providing a visual representation that corresponds to the content of the associated text...

 and worked for Parisian magazines , but he got some kind allowance from his father as well.

Jacques paid incidental visits to his father who lived at that time in Roquebrune
Roquebrune may refer to the following communes in France:* Roquebrune, Gers, in the Gers département* Roquebrune, Gironde, in the Gironde département* Roquebrune, the former name for Roquebrune-Cap Martin, in the Alpes-Maritimes département...

, Southern France
Southern France
Southern France , colloquially known as le Midi is defined geographical area consisting of the regions of France that border the Atlantic Ocean south of the Gironde, Spain, the Mediterranean, and Italy...

, were he prepared and created his most notorious fake, the Supper at Emmaus, although Jacques didn’t know that at that time.

In 1938 father Van Meegeren suggested Jacques to visit the great exhibition of Old Dutch Masters in Rotterdam and have a special look on the newly discovered Supper at Emmaus by Vermeer. When his father asked later on what impression the picture had made on him , Jacques’ reaction was remarkable:

”It is a masterpiece of this century, certainly no Vermeer.”

”To whom do you attribute it then?”

”To you, Dad,” Jacques said. “I can see it from the long and outsized form of the heads. The eyelids are your way of painting (...) the wine glass and the white pitcher are also in your possession.”

His father did not speak another word and Jacques kept the secret of his father. They didn't discuss the matter anymore until 1945, when the fake came to light.

The 22nd September 1938 Jacques married in Paris with Lucienne Combey, a girl from Annecy
Annecy is a commune in the Haute-Savoie department in the Rhône-Alpes region in south-eastern France.It lies on the northern tip of Lake Annecy , 35 kilometres south of Geneva.-Administration:...

 near the Swiss border. Opposition by the family – especially by her father – was severe, but the couple persevered.

They went to live in Paris on a better address than a starting journalist could afford but they were helped out by father Van Meegeren, who at that time already earned much money with his forgeries.

In 1939 their daughter Michèle was born, in 1942 their daughter Chantal.

During World War II (1939–1940) the couple lived in Paris. Jacques traveled between Paris and Holland which was remarkable in itself in full war-time. He also had a home in Amsterdam .
Around the end of the war Lucienne went to live with her two children with her parents in Annecy, as there was no food to left in Paris.

After the war Jacques traveled to Holland to help his father who had been arrested for his fraud with the Supper at Emmaus and other fake Masters. Jacques didn’t unite with his family in Annecy and had no money to help them out. He only wrote letters with vague plans and futile promises for money. In a sense he abandoned his family.

After a while Lucienne got tired of all vain promises and went her own way. She, however, refused to divorce Jacques so that a peculiar situation arose: they never lived together any more, but when Jacques later on met another woman he couldn’t marry her because of the still existing marriage.

A new career

From 1946 on Jacques lived in Amsterdam in the house at the Amstel-quay where he was registered since 1940. His father, however, didn’t need much help; on the contrary, he helped his son to become a painter.

When Han taught his son to paint portraits, he was a stern tutor. When Jacques had finished a portrait and a small part – for instance a hand – was not good enough, he made him do the complete portrait again. Han used to say: “What you have done once, you do better next time.”

Jacques became a capable portraitist and his father’s best pupil . Jacques goal was to render the character of a model in his paintings, also when children were concerned.

After two years waiting his father’s trial began in October 1947. Jacques attended the trial, as well as his sister Inez. It was an emotional experience for him. In the end his father was sentenced to one year prison but soon after the verdict he got ill and was admitted to a private clinic in Amsterdam. Before he could serve his term, father van Meegeren died to the dismay of Jacques.

Jacques made a drawing of his father lying in state
Lying in state
Lying in state is a term used to describe the tradition in which a coffin is placed on view to allow the public at large to pay their respects to the deceased. It traditionally takes place in the principal government building of a country or city...

 in his home in Amsterdam, and attended the funeral where he delivered a brief eulogy
A eulogy is a speech or writing in praise of a person or thing, especially one recently deceased or retired. Eulogies may be given as part of funeral services. However, some denominations either discourage or do not permit eulogies at services to maintain respect for traditions...

 ending with:

”Too many young artists think that skilful drawing and command of painting techniques are no longer necessary to become an honest artist. They would do well to take an example from my father.”

As so often happened with father Van Meegeren’s words in the past, this statement of his son was wrongly interpreted by one of Holland’s newspapers:

”Museum directors take care! The son of Han van Meegeren has said that artists today should use his father as an example.”

Jacques continued to paint and quite successful so. He got commissions for portraits all over the country and had exhibitions in several towns. In between he went to Paris and worked as a scenery painter with the American Theatre and lead a bohemian life.

In 1954 he met his wife for the last time in Annecy and made a portrait of his eldest daughter (age 15) but there followed no reconciliation .


Jacques continued to live and work in Amsterdam and met there his second partner in life: Juliette Ledel. In 1957 he traveled with her to Nice where he could sell his father’s villa Estate after his father’s bankruptcy had been settled after so many years. They bought a house in Laghet, not far from Nice, and settled there. Jacques worked as a painter and portraitist and they both mixed with the local population and started to play pétanque
Pétanque is a form of boules where the goal is, while standing inside a starting circle with both feet on the ground, to throw hollow metal balls as close as possible to a small wooden ball called a cochonnet or jack. It is also sometimes called a bouchon or le petit...

, the popular sport of Southern France .

One of the commissions Jacques obtained was the creation of a painted War Memorial of which he was very proud. In 1959 the couple invested all their money and energy in a private exhibition of Jacques’ work in Nice. However, a few days before the opening of the exhibition Nice was flooded because of a bursting water dam high in the mountains. No public came and no publicity was obtained ; Jacques suffered a mental depression which lasted several months.

Holland again
In 1962 the couple Jacques and Juliette went back to Holland without any money left. They were lured to Amsterdam by a plan for an Hollywood movie about Han van Meegeren. Jacques was invited to take part in it and to consult the crew about the details of his father’s life. It was, however, not the first plan for a movie about Van Meegeren’s life (and it would not be the last either), but like in former cases the plan was dropped and no movie was made. The couple was left without money. They had a hard time, always changing their address and living in ever poorer circumstances.

Jacques was desperate for money and started to make and sell pictures with his father’s signature
A signature is a handwritten depiction of someone's name, nickname, or even a simple "X" that a person writes on documents as a proof of identity and intent. The writer of a signature is a signatory. Similar to a handwritten signature, a signature work describes the work as readily identifying...

 which fetched far better prizes than his own . These fakes will be discussed in the following section.

In the last year of his life he met a nurse – a Mrs. Van de Biggelaar – who had known him as a boy. He told her the story of his life and confessed that he had abandoned his wife and children. He also admitted – and that is of historic importance – that he had made fake pictures with the signature of his father .

A year later, in 1977, Jacques died, a poor and lonely man . Juliette was no longer with him, it is not known whether she had left him, or had died. His funeral was organized by a remote Indonesian cousin who happened to live in Holland.

Fake van Meegerens

Jacques was not the only one who faked his father’s work. After Han van Meegeren had become famous, his work rose in price and it became worth-while to fake his paintings. Many existing mediocre paintings got a signature “H. van Meegeren” or new pictures were made in a quasi Van Meegeren style.

Among these fakes the imitations by Jacques are the most tricky ones as he painted in a style that was akin to his father’s and was also able to produce a perfect fake signature. He sometimes authenticated their provenance
Provenance, from the French provenir, "to come from", refers to the chronology of the ownership or location of an historical object. The term was originally mostly used for works of art, but is now used in similar senses in a wide range of fields, including science and computing...

 by writing a certificate.

An interesting case in this respect is the collection Couto. Mr. Carlos de Couto was the Brazilian vice-Consul in Amsterdam at the time Han van Meegeren – and later on – Jacques lived there. He bought pictures directly from Han van Meegeren and he also gave him a commission to paint a portrait of his wife. These pictures were of course entirely authentic Van Meegerens. He also bought some Van Meegerens at auctions which might have been authentic as well.

However, later on he often lent money to Jacques van Meegeren who paid him back in pictures by “Han van Meegeren”. There are good reasons to assume that many of these were made by Jacques himself and signed with an ”authentic signature” . The present owner of the collection is now left with the question which of these pictures are authentic and which are fakes. In the majority of the cases it is clear that the imitations by Jacques are of a substantial lower quality.

The fake "Van Meegerens" made by Jacques and others are usually of low quality. They are, however, not always recognized as such and have thus adversely affected the reputation of Han van Meegeren's work.


This article is based on the following documents:
  • [1] Frederik H. Kreuger
    Frederik H. Kreuger
    Frederik Hendrik Kreuger , is a Dutch high voltage scientist and inventor, lives in Delft, Holland, and is professor emeritus of the Delft University of Technology. He is also a professional author of technical literature, nonfiction books, thrillers and a decisive biography of the master forger...

    , A New Vermeer, Publ. Quantes Rijswijk, Holland, 2007, ISBN 978-90-5959-047-2. This is a biography of Han van Meegeren which also describes the life of Jacques in the chapters II to V and VIII, and his forgeries in chapter IX.
  • [2] Lord Kilbracken, Van Meegeren: Master Forger, Charles Scribner's, New York 1967. It describes parts of Jacques’ life, Lord Kilbracken was a friend of Jacques.
  • [3] Juliette Ledel, Biography of Jacques van Meegeren, Document at the RKD, the States Institute for Art Documentation in The Hague, Holland.

External links

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