Wednesday, September 03, 2008

New this Week: The Man Who Made Vermeers by Jonathan Lopez

In one of those odd coincidences of collective unconscious, 2008 saw the publication of two important books on mid-20th century art forger Han van Meergeren. Back in June we got The Forger’s Spell (Harper) by Edward Dolnick, a beautifully researched and illustrated look at the man most often thought to be one of the most successful art forgers of all time. Nor is Dolnick a neophyte to the shores of art crime. A previous work, 2006’s brilliant The Rescue Artist, won the Edgar award for Best Non-Fiction while ArtNews said there had never been “a better book on art crime.”

One would think that, in a year that an author this good had produced a book this terrific, another on the topic would be overkill. But Jonathan Lopez’s newly published The Man Who Made Vermeers (Harcourt) stacks up very well to Dolnick’s book, in fact the New York Sun says Lopez bests Dolnick. Personally, I think it would take an expert on the topic to pick a winner -- both books are terrific and engaging. Perhaps Dolnick’s prose is a little warmer, while Lopez’s seems a bit more in-depth, but I could be clutching at differences here. The color plates in The Forger’s Spell are fantastic and add their own depth to the story, while the many historic black and white photos in The Man Who Made Vermeers enrich the already terrific text.

If you must pick one over the other, do it at your favorite booksellers. Hold the books side by side, read a snippet from here and perhaps from there and then choose the one that seems to speak directly to you. If you choose one and enjoy it, one won’t ever be enough. Fate has made a set of these books, that’s what I think. And what’s to stop you going back and getting the other once your appetite has been properly whet?

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Anonymous Jennifer said...

Great post!

I read about these two books on Tyler Green's art blog. He says that the Dolnick book is just "a weak version of the Lopez book." He also gives a link to some gossip site that says Dolnick's wife is some kind of bigshot at the New York Times, so the paper has been giving Dolnick all kinds of free publicity but won't mention the Lopez book. Pretty sleazy. Personally, I think I'm going to take your advice and buy both so that I can compare them.

Again, great post!

Jennifer A. Leftwich

PS: Here's the link to the Tyler Green piece:

Thursday, September 4, 2008 2:39:00 PM PDT  

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