Olaf van Herpen, art collector
Willem de Winter, art dealer
W. van Schaijck, prosecutor
NFI (Netherlands Forensic Institute)
The project originated as an opportunity to train a student in a more forensic approach regarding her research into the material aspects of art on paper during her master study in paper conservation. The resulting report (extended at the prosecutor’s request) played a significant role in the instigation of the NFI’s research. The court case eventually led to a conviction and the resulting publicity shone a light on the UvA Conservation and Restoration of Cultural Heritage program. In addition to many articles in the national press, an article on the project was published in Folia and an article appeared in the leading journal for the paper conservation profession, the Journal of Paper Conservation.
Van Herpen and De Winter where concerned about the disrupting effect of the large number of suspected Heyboer forgeries on the art market and saw an opportunity to prove their suspicions. The prosecutor learned of the project through the De Winter’s police statement, which aroused his interest in the outcome. The resulting report convinced the prosecutor that the case was valid for a possible forgery of 4000+ works of art attributed to Heyboer. The results justified further investigation by the Netherlands Forensic Institute (NFI), which is hindered by a large workload and would hence be spared a possible dead-end research. The final NFI research convinced the judge that the works were indeed forgeries and the forger was duly convicted.
As an art collector Van Herpen had commissioned work from my colleague, the then UvA lecturer in ceramics and stone conservation, Lysia Biçaçi. She heard of the suspected forgeries and informed me about the case. I recognised this as a good opportunity to collaborate with my student Judith Geerts to see if we could prove the prints to be forgeries because of the material science and appropriate methodology. This triggered the aforementioned events after Van Herpen’s friend and art dealer De Winter filed his complaint with the police. The project became more charged due to this development and thus demanded much deeper research then previously envisioned.
Proof that the assumed forgeries are fakes, leading to the conviction of the
Velzen, S.T.J. van (2014). A bleeding fake: unfolding a crime on paper. Journal of Paper Conservation, 15 (2), 26-30.