In May 1945 Van Meegeren was arrested, charged with collaborating with the enemy and imprisoned. His name had been traced to the sale made during the second world war of what was then believed to be an authentic Vermeer to Nazi Field-Marshal Hermann Goering.
Shortly after, to general disbelief, Van Meegeren came up with a very original defense against the accusation of collaboration, then punishable by death. He claimed that the painting, The Woman Taken in Adultery, was not a Vermeer but rather a forgery by his own hand. Moreover, since he had traded the false Vermeer for 200 original Dutch paintings seized by Goering in the beginning of he war, Van Meegeren believed that he was in fact a national hero rather than a Nazi collaborator.
full story from the essential vermeer
In November of 1947 Van Meegeren was convicted to one year in prison. One month later, at the age of 58, he fell ill due to years of drug and alcohol abuse and died of a heart attack in prison. In 1950 household effects were auctioned in his house at 321 Keizersgracht in Amsterdam.
After Han van Meegeren became famous in 1945, the price of his own works rose with his fame. People wanted genuine Meegeren paintings, especially in the United States where an interest had arisen in the work of the man “who swindled Goering”. It became lucrative to forge a Meegeren painting, so that many wrongly attributed and dubious pictures reached the market.
It was arranged that, under police guard, Van Meegeren would paint another "Vermeer", Jesus Among the Doctors , using the special paints and techniques he claimed to have used for the alleged forgeries. This he did, until he learned that he was to be charged with forgery rather than collaboration. He then refused to finish the picture and, in particular, to "age" it.
The result from his visit one could read in the English paper of art The Burlington Magazine, edition September under the headline: “A new Vermeer” and Bredius started right on, and softly he said:
“It’s a wonderful moment in life to an art lover to suddenly be confronted with a so far unknown painting by a great master. Untouched, on original canvas and with no restorations, completely as had it just been given free from the master’s hand. Oh! What painting it was! Neither the beautiful signature I. V. Meer (in monogram I.V.M.) nor the picking at the breed, which Christ is blessing is necessary to convince anybody, that what we have here, I’m forced to say, the masterpiece of Johannes Vermeer and furthermore it’s one of his best paintings (117 by 129 cm), quite different from all his other pictures, but yet every inch is “a Vermeer”.
.... The painting Doctor Boon had in his hands for inspection by a friend, the Dutch painter Han van Meegeren, who told him, that the painting came from an old Dutch family, who lived in Italy under the fascistic regime. The family, according to Meegeren, bared the name Mavroeke had asked him to sell some heirlooms, and he had now put himself into a great risk, smuggling the painting out of the country.
In less than six years, van Meegeren would paint a further six "Vermeers", earning the equivalent of $60 million. With money, came vice - he revelled in fine champagne, became addicted to morphine and was compulsively unfaithful to his wife.
He bought dozens of houses and hotels, but even then he could not exhaust his wealth, so he hid hundreds of thousands of guilders in gardens, heating ducts and under the floorboards of his many properties. Often he would forget where he had hidden the money, and 30 years after his death, the Dutch were still turning up cashboxes stuffed with pre-war notes.