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The art forger who tricked the Nazis - Noah Charney

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It was one of the strangest trials in Dutch history. The defendant in a 1947 case was an art forger who had counterfeited millions of dollars worth of paintings. But he wasn’t arguing his innocence— in fact, his life depended on proving that he had committed fraud. Who was this artist, and why was he on trial for his life? Noah Charney investigates the notorious Han van Meegeren.

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TED-Ed Animations feature the words and ideas of educators brought to life by professional animators. Are you an educator or animator interested in creating a TED-Ed Animation? Nominate yourself here »

Meet The Creators

  • Educator Noah Charney
  • Director Luisa M H Copetti
  • Narrator Addison Anderson
  • Animator Luisa M H Copetti, Felipe Urbanetto
  • Compositor Gabriel Maia
  • Art Director Luisa M H Copetti
  • Storyboard Artist Luisa M H Copetti
  • Hype Executive Producer Gabriel Garcia
  • Hype Producer Taíla Soliman
  • Music Gabriel Maia
  • Sound Designer Gabriel Maia
  • Director of Production Gerta Xhelo
  • Editorial Producer Alex Rosenthal
  • Producer Bethany Cutmore-Scott
  • Associate Editorial Producer Elizabeth Cox
  • Script Editor Alex Gendler
  • Fact-checker Jennifer Nam
  • See more
Additional Resources for you to Explore
A Dutch art forger managed to fool the world’s leading experts, and even dupe Nazi leader Hermann Goring. But when he was arrested, he had to un-fool the world by proving that he was, in fact, a forger and had not traded original masterpieces to the enemy—with his life on the line should he fail. This strangest of courtroom dramas shows that some crimes do pay, both in cash and notoriety, and that even a proven forger can become a popular folk hero.

big illustrated book, The Art of Forgery.
This book is the complete story and analysis of how criminals have successfully passed off forgeries, primarily in the world of art, but also beyond (covering things like religious relics, natural history specimens, and even rare wine). It is a psychological analysis of forgers with a focus also on their forensic techniques and, of course, fascinating stories.

Did this forger actually want smarter art experts?
The story of Eric Hebborn, in my opinion the greatest of all art forgers, is particular in that he was never caught, but “came out” as it were by publishing a book called “The Art Forger’s Handbook” which laid out his techniques—and a copy of which has been found in the homes of many forgers since then.

Foiling the Forgers: Giacommeti

The case study of John Myatt and John Drewe provides an example of one of the “provenance traps” successfully used by forgers, in this case to pass of works purportedly by Giacometti.

Foiling the Forgers: Matisse
This case study looks at the forgery of a Matisse painting. Once the star of a major museum in Venezuela, the painting at some point was stolen and an excellent forgery swapped in its place. It took years for anyone to notice.

Foiling the Forgers: Dali
The story of Salvador Dali forgeries is distinctive because Dali endorsed the forger, and the forgeries were coming out of his studio, with his signature. Does this make them forgeries or merely a product of an artist’s studio system?

How to Navigate the Art Market
The art world can be a confusing place, and it really is a striking, murky organism in which criminality can thrive. This article offers insight for collectors on how to navigate these often-choppy waters.

David Bowie’s Great Art Hoax

Among David Bowie’s many accomplishments, few know that he was involved in an elaborate practical joke on the art world in which he and a famous novelist invented an artist, published a book about him, and then were delighted when many people “remembered” having met him.

On Alec Baldwin, Bait-and-Switches and Original Copies

Alec Baldwin was one of many celebrities who were victimized by art swindles. This article looks at how he was fooled and what mechanism the forger used to pull it off.


Are Replicas Changing the Way We Experience Art?
Modern technology allows for the production of replicas that are all-but-indistinguishable from originals. This article looks at how this is done, and whether it changes the way we experience art.

How Not To Buy Stolen, Looted or Forged Art

Written as a guide for the art fair season, this article helps potential buyers to be aware of how to avoid acquiring problematic (forged, stolen or looted) art.

A Fake of Art
This article looks at issues in authenticity and the role of museums in being open about replicas that they display in lieu of originals

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About TED-Ed Animations

TED-Ed Animations feature the words and ideas of educators brought to life by professional animators. Are you an educator or animator interested in creating a TED-Ed Animation? Nominate yourself here »

Meet The Creators

  • Educator Noah Charney
  • Director Luisa M H Copetti
  • Narrator Addison Anderson
  • Animator Luisa M H Copetti, Felipe Urbanetto
  • Compositor Gabriel Maia
  • Art Director Luisa M H Copetti
  • Storyboard Artist Luisa M H Copetti
  • Hype Executive Producer Gabriel Garcia
  • Hype Producer Taíla Soliman
  • Music Gabriel Maia
  • Sound Designer Gabriel Maia
  • Director of Production Gerta Xhelo
  • Editorial Producer Alex Rosenthal
  • Producer Bethany Cutmore-Scott
  • Associate Editorial Producer Elizabeth Cox
  • Script Editor Alex Gendler
  • Fact-checker Jennifer Nam
  • See more